Friday, July 18, 2008

Movie Review - Wall-E

While Lynette was off at camp, I took advantage of my afternoon at home to take the kids to a matinee. It was a toss up between Kung-Fu Panda and Wall-E. Based on the times, Wall-E won out, and after seeing the movie, I was glad we did.

Overview
I wasn't entirely sure what to expect going into this movie. I knew the basic concept...humans have trashed Earth with too much garbage and so they evacuated and left a host of robots to clean up, after which they'd come back and repopulate. Unfortunately, all but one of the robots have seized up and poor little Wall-E as the last survivor is a little bored and lonely. Until a strange new robot comes to earth and they become friends. The rest I knew was that somehow he hitched a ride on her ship back to wherever she came from...where the humans are...and that for some reason they end up in a bit of trouble running for their "lives" around the ship.

The other thing I'd heard is that it was more of an "adult" cartoon, in the sense that it was a little preachy and dry and "inconvenient truth" environmentalist type flick that was just way over kids heads.

With the exception of Julia, all 3 of the kids had fun and shared a few big laughs (and even Julia had fun except for her 3 trips to the bathroom and the last 10-15 minutes of the show when her attention span ran out and she was "bored" and wanted to "go home"). Jason came back after the movie and built a Wall-E and EVE out of cardboard boxes, paper plates and other objects.

The Story
Yes, the story does have themes that are at an adult "stop being an idiot" level. And yet, the themes don't come off as preachy or heavy handed. Kids won't necessarily realize they're being taught a lesson...and even if they do notice it, I think it's a good teaching opportunity since the lesson they're sharing is one worth helping kids realize. Even if they don't overtly get the 'message', they'll hopefully recognize it as they grow up and have it stored subconsciously so that perhaps they make better choices.

The storyline is well thought out and well written. The first 30 minutes or so of the movie spent on earth is actually rather interesting. Initially there's not any conflict and yet the characterization of Wall-E is very intriguing. Once Eve arrives, there is some conflict and more character development as well as the introduction of a key plot piece that drives the story. Other elements on Earth that were rather interesting is the blending of live-action video segments with the animation. The live actors (or rather actor) was an intriguing twist that I'm not quite sure about. My best guess is that perhaps it was used to help us understand that this could actually be a reality somewhere in the future...that earth and humanity could destroy themselves and change ourselves into something completely different. But instead, I'll just leave it in the gray matter and move on.

Once we move to space, we get the real conflict situation and greater depth of plot. Wall-E's motivation remains completely unchanged until nearly the end of the movie...and even then, his action may indicate a changed motivation on the surface but still could be part of his initial motivation, that of finding and staying with Eve. The story arc really draws you in and makes you think, mainly because you really get attached to the characters and want to see them succeed.

Characters
I was a little worried about a movie based around a pair of robots that can't really speak (they can say each other's names, but that's about it). And yet, I found myself really attaching to Wall-E and later to Eve. I even found myself rooting for some of the humans and being excited to see them change once they realized the mess they were in.

The animation work on the characters was great in standard Pixar style. Attention to detail was fabulous and even the supporting characters was excellent. The variety of robots was great, each one designed to its own special task. The humans were at times amorphous blobs, but that was part of the intent of the story I think. There was enough uniqueness to the humans to make them feel real without making them feel too 'good' or 'human.'

Even though the story's message somewhat portrays "humans" as the true villains, there is an actual "villain" character that gets exposed towards the end of the movie. Maybe I was tired, but I didn't see the 'villain' switch getting pulled in that way, so it was actually a pretty cool twist. I found him to be a very interesting villain...not truly vile by any means, just the antagonist to our little protagonists.

Summary
I really had mixed feelings going into this one. While I've always been a fan of Disney and I've really enjoyed the Pixar work, I was a little unsure about what to expect and based on rumors I'd heard, I was anticipating a boring and possibly preachy movie disguised as a kids film.

Instead, I found a touching and entertaining movie that had me laughing at moments and saddened or worried at others. It really had me emotionally invested in many ways. It's not non-stop action or filled with tons of quips and jokes, but it's still something that I think many/most kids will enjoy (even in the generation of 5 minute attention spans). And if the kids (or even adults) learn something from it...I actually think that's a good thing, especially if it's not so overt to turn kids off by the "I don't want to learn stuff" concept.

Definitely recommended

4 1/2 Stars
*****




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Bonus
What Pixar film would be complete without the quick short before the movie. The movie attached to Wall-E had the kids rolling in the aisles. I forget the name, but I think it was called Presto.

The concept is that of a magician with a magic hat (or rather pair of hats) and his rabbit (to pull out of said hat(s)). The hilarity that ensues is riotous slapstick humor that reminds me a lot of classic Disney or Looney Toons cartoons. I was reminded of Mickey as the magician turning Donald into a seal or making him spit out playing cards as he spoke. Or of the many duels between Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam or Elmer Fudd. The quick paced action and great animation made for an excellent appetizer to the movie.

One of my favorite Pixar shorts to date.

4 1/2 stars
*****

2 comments:

patrick said...

Wall-E totally looks like the robot from "Short Circuit"... minus the cheesy 80's style of course

Okie said...

Yeah...I thought about mentioning that as a comparison because visually they do have similarities...however the differences are varied enough that after the first few minutes of the movie, I had really forgotten the resemblance, so it was a non-factor.