“WALL-E”: a brief review (w/spoilers)

| July 2, 2008

You could probably devise an interesting psychological profiling test around a person’s favorite Pixar film; mine happens to be “The Incredibles”, so make of that what you will. What is telling is that Pixar has yet to make either a bad or an unsuccessful movie, a pretty stunning achievement given the river of diluted sludge that generally flows out of Hollywood, and especially in light of Sturgeon’s Law (“90% of everything is crap”). Pixar continues its impossible string of hits with “WALL-E”.

“WALL-E” is something quite different from previous Pixar films: it is not a film so much as a feature-length cartoon. Specifically — as I said to my sweet wife Sandra as the credits ended — this is the longest, best, most exquisitely drawn “Looney Tunes” cartoon ever made.

Think about it. “WALL-E” contains all the classic “Looney Tunes”/Warner Bros. elements: a sympathetic underdog hero, not a lot of dialog, physical slapstick, manic and goofy secondary characters, unrequited (for a while, at least) romance, a melodramatic villian (with sidekick), “classical” music (“Barber of Seville” : my generation :: “Hello, Dolly” : my  grandkids’ generation), social satire both broad and subtle — but always sharp and a bit painful, lots of puns (visual and verbal), various subtle homages and cultural references (my wife chuckled every time she heard the Mac OS X boot sound), the triumph of individualism and common sense over mandates from above, and an upbeat ending. While most reviewers have seen the “Buy n Large” corporation as a slam on Wal-Mart, I think it also doubles as a call-out to the ubiquitous “Acme Corporation” from the Warners Brothers cartoons.

I know some folks have complained about the apparently heavy-handed message — anti-consumer, pro-environment — but that falls under the broad-yet-sharp satire. “WALL-E” didn’t have Bugs or Daffy or Elmer to make asides to the audience, so the storyboards had to do it.

Because it is a “Looney Tunes” cartoon rather than an animated film, “WALL-E” doesn’t have quite the personal emotional resonance (read: “tugging at parents’ heartstrings”) of some of the previous Pixar films, such as “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles”.  But it is, I think, Pixar’s finest work to date. I find myself humming “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and smiling two days after seeing WALL-E; I’m not sure when was the last time that a film had me doing that.

Spoilers (such as they are) after the jump.

I’ve seen a few reviews that think that “WALL-E” could have been a better film if they had left WALL-E disfunctional or with no memory at the end of the film. But that would have been completely out of character with the “Looney Tunes” nature of the film.  Hey, the movie has a happy ending, folks. Deal with it.  ..bruce..

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Category: Main, Movies, Reviews, Robots

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at bwebster@bfwa.com, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

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