Summer Movie Showdown: "WALL-E" Review

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In the distant future, a small waste collecting robot inadvertently embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind.
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Summer Movie Showdown: "WALL-E" Review

-- Rating: G
Length: 98 minutes
Release Date: June 27, 2008
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Genre: Animation/Adventure/Family

The year is 2805, and for 700 years, Earth's population has been living onboard a starship. Rampant consumerism, waste, and overpopulation contributed to leaving the planet looking like a scene from "Hoarders," and the possibly evil megacorporation Buy n Large, rather than clean up the mess, opted to shoot people into space to solve the problem. "WALL-E" opens on a scene of dismal destruction; a vast landscape of garbage towers rising high into the sky. A single robot, WALL-E, is combing through the debris, crushing trash into cubes and occasionally salvaging a relic of the human life that's long since left the planet.

In his 700 years, WALL-E has developed sentience, and he's also developed a fondness for human gizmos and gadgets. Above all though, WALL-E yearns for the particularly human experience of love, which he's become familiar with through endless viewings of classic movies.

One memorable day, WALL-E finds a seedling growing amid the ruins. Knowing he's found something truly special-no life has been present on Earth for hundreds of years-he carefully collects it. Not long after, a spaceship arrives and deploys EVE, a robot whose mission is to seek out and find any plant life. EVE's sensors detect the seedling and lead her to WALL-E, who falls immediately in love with her despite her brusque nature.

EVE follows WALL-E to the storage truck he calls home, where he giddily shows her his collection of human artifacts. She takes the seedling and goes into standby mode to await her pickup by the ship. When the ship arrives, WALL-E is unable to face the prospect of losing her forever, so he desperately clings to the ship as it blasts off into space. What follows is a silly yet chilling adventure through a possible future in which humans have become so complacent and lazy they can no longer even move under their own power. WALL-E's arrival onboard changes everything, and eventually, the people rebel against Buy n Large to recapture their freedom and the magic of life on Earth.

At face value, "WALL-E" is a family-friendly film about lovable robots saving a bumbling human race from its own vices. Plenty of sight gags and one-liners will keep audiences both young and old giggling, and the storyline is easy to follow, even for younger viewers.

Beneath the surface, however, the movie is a dystopian adventure set in a world that's not too difficult for most adults to imagine. In the same vein as Warner Bros.' "Happy Feet," this is a film with a message. "Happy Feet," however, drew criticism for being too heavy handed in its approach to animal rights, while "WALL-E" offers a lesson that is easy to digest and doesn't feel preachy or forced. Best of all, because "WALL-E" is a little more subtle, it's easy to enjoy just as a movie, regardless of the feeling about the subject at hand.

Pixar has been captivating audiences of all ages with its signature computer-generated animation and creative, fantastical storylines since 1995's "Toy Story." The studio reached new heights in "WALL-E," which took home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature and received an astonishing fifty-two additional awards. The film grossed more than $223 million in the US alone, earning a tidy profit over its $180 million budget. Yet, while the animation is colorful and vivid, the music perfectly scored, and the direction and voice acting superb, what made "WALL-E" a success was its flawlessly written story.

As the world's population continues to grow and a small number of large corporations continue to serve more and more consumer needs, the fate of the planet one hundred years from now becomes more difficult to see clearly. Landfills are filling; an island of plastic trash the size of the US has been deposited in the oceans. Even setting aside theories about climate change and its potential causes, it's clear that something needs to change to ensure continued habitability on Earth-but what?

"WALL-E" doesn't offer any answers to that question, but the movie does plant the idea firmly in viewers' minds by demonstrating one potential outcome of today's consumer culture.

A lot of people watching "WALL-E" today have a genuine fear of this possible outcome becoming reality, but hopefully, thanks to these types of kid-friendly and educational animated flicks, future generations may at least consider what life might be like by then and make decisions that encourage sustainability rather than destruction. "WALL-E" is a clever choice to watch as a science-fiction film, a children's movie, or as an adventure flick-and it's even worth watching as a thought experiment.

Rating: 4 out of 5