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WALL E

Review by Michael Jacobson

Voices:  Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, Sigourney Weaver
Director:  Andrew Stanton
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  98 Minutes
Release Date:  November 18, 2008

“Voice confirmation required.”

“Uh…”

“Voice confirmation accepted.”

Film ****

WALL E is some kind of masterpiece; a brilliantly imaginative animated film that takes mechanical characters and gives them heart and emotional weight, a rib-tickling comedy with some surprisingly touching moments, and a clever and substantial piece of science fiction.  It might also be the year’s most subversive film.

It takes place some 700 years in the future, when the earth is devoid of life…too much garbage forced the humans to take to space.  But not all is quiet…a little solar powered robot has existed through the centuries doing what he was programmed to do; namely, clean up the planet as best he could.

That little robot is the industrial WALL E (Burtt), which is Waste Allocation Load Lifter, Earth model.  He’s the last of his kind.  He chugs away, picking up the trash, compacting it into neat squares and laying them into proper piles, some of which rival our best skyscrapers by this point.  His only companion is a cockroach, but he works hard, and is even able to make modest repairs on himself when necessary.  At night, he unwinds in a special base vehicle, removing his treads for comfort and taking shelter from ominous dust storms while enjoying some of the items of refuse he’s collected.

The silence is soon interrupted by the arrival of a ship, and a new robot called EVE (Knight, and I can’t give away what the acronym means).  EVE is on a mission, and WALL E is infatuated by his first real company in hundreds of years.

It involves a single plant, one that WALL E has protected, but someone else seems very interested in, and when EVE is returned to her ship, WALL E finds himself in tow, going well across the galaxy to a waiting flying supercity.  The humans are there, but every need is taken care of, so they have fallen quite out of shape.  Special hover chairs mean they don’t even have to walk.

What does it all mean?  Well, a company called Buy n Large, led by an ever smiling CEO (Willard), has taken charge of cleaning up Earth, though one suspects they had a large hand in helping the humans clutter it up in the first place.  They’ve been waiting for generations for a chance to return…but can they?  Will they even know how to live like terrestrials again?

It’s all a plot that provides much comedy and will provoke thoughtful discussions…after all, we are a consumerist bunch of mammals, and we do tend to pile up the garbage, and our lifestyles are leading to less and less exercise.  I think the picture this film paints is a little bleak and unrealistic, but a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is required in an animated movie.  Otherwise, you might be asking why a garbage robot would be programmed with something resembling speech.  Or having something akin to actual emotions.

It’s an ambitious film that entertains with laughter and pathos, while at the same time, pointing an accusatory finger through the spectacle and whimsy.  It’s beautiful to look at, and mostly light in tone, but also pessimistic…in fact, it might be challenging to dismiss the environmental commentary and just enjoy the movie, but the experience is better if you do.

Pixar has pioneered the art of computer animation for more than twenty years, and every time they release a new film, it’s something of an event.  They never seem to disappoint.  For all it’s subtly bleak outlook disguised as a warm comedy, this might be their new crowning achievement.

Video ****

With this anamorphic transfer, Disney continues their tradition of outstanding presentations of Pixar produced product.  The film is a technical, detailed marvel, with amazing coloring and vividly intricate scenes.  It looks even better on high definition Blu-ray, but for DVD fans, you can't go wrong, either.

Audio ****

The 5.1 soundtrack is impressive...a quick comparison to the Blu-ray edition might show a little less in terms of ambient sound here and there, but there's still plenty of dynamic range and surround channel action to make this an impressive listen.

Features ****

This three disc release is quite loaded...there's even a disc for you to make a digital copy of the movie.You can listen to audio commentary from director Andrew Stanton, watch some making-of featurettes or four deleted scenes with optional introduction, view some of the Buy n Large shorts in their entirety, or watch a hilarious promo reel cut together for maximum humor.  There is a sneak peek of a special “Tour of the Universe”, the original animated theatrical short “Presto” and a new short “BURN E”.  You can also watch “The Pixar Story” and learn more about this amazing studio!

A “Lots of Bots” storybook takes you on a new adventure, narrated by John Ratzenberger and Kathy Najimy, and you can also examine the robots in a closer way with a click of your remote.  There is a featurette on sound design, which is always important in an animated movie, but even more so when you’re trying to give voice to mechanical creations!

Summary:

WALL E is an amazing, unique and imaginative work.  It takes robots and makes them real, and takes humans and makes them worrisome.  This vivid offering is beautiful and entertaining, and possibly a little troubling in the margins, but no one said an animated film couldn’t challenge us on higher levels.

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