Who woulda thunk that the big Disney film of the summer would offer a genuinely touching love story, rampant satire on such subjects as big business, commercialism and obesity, and offer one of the most awe-inspiring and depressing visions of the future? But then again, this is Pixar, and after Ratatouille dispelled my personal concerns they’d lost their touch (the likes of Finding Nemo and The Incredibles left me cold), Wall-E far exceeded my expectations.
Andrew Stanton’s film follows the titular robot, the last of his kind, who has spent the last several centuries clearing up the waste mankind left behind on planet Earth before hot-footing it into space until the cleaning operation is complete (as indicated by some hilarious live-action commercials dotted around the skyscrapers of garbage). Wall-E spends his time compacting and stacking rubbish but, having developed a personality over time, also collects various intriguing nick-nacks and trinkets. Alone on the whole planet, save for an indestructible cockroach, his life is changed when a new high-tech robot, EVE, arrives, and he is instantly smitten. And from that initial encounter begins a bizarre but touching love story before EVE returns to outer space with Wall-E in tow…
It seems the big animation studios have reached a level of technical expertise that means they are no longer playing a game of visual effects oneupmanship, but whereas the likes of Dreamworks relies on big name stars, goofy gags and pop culture references, Pixar stands out from the competition thanks to the wonderful mature story-telling and surprising emotional involvement for a tale ostensibly of a couple of robots. Its not the case where the makers feel like they have to crowbar jokes in for the grown-ups while the kids are enveloped in the garish lunacy and fart noises – Wall-E is universal entertainment of the highest order.
Everything about this film works – the characters, the settings, the narrative drive, the visuals. Perhaps there is a little too much to-ing and fro-ing, it sometimes veers into convention and predictability, and the shift in the story and location may not appeal to those expecting a more abstract experience (as perhaps the trailers may have indicated), but whichever way you cut it – sci-fi epic, romance, action-adventure, slapstick comedy, dark satire – it manages to trump other films, live-action or animated, that purport to even cover one, even two, of those genres. Plus the traditional short animation before the main feature is perhaps the best one yet, brimming with a madcap energy and ingenuity of the very best Looney Tunes shorts. Truly, Pixar spoil us so very much.