Directed by Andrew Stanton
Early reports struck dire notes for this futuristic tale of a garbage-compacting robot, WALL-E (for Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth class), who was left on Earth to clean up the mess we made of it. Words like “gloomy,” “dystopian,” “dull” filled the air. But this groundbreaker has amassed $163 million with no signs of slowing. Critics, including me, rank it in the Pixar pantheon with The Incredibles and the two Toy Story hits. WALL-E is so good it’s drawing insane protests: The weight police are offended that the humans circling the polluted Earth in spaceships are portrayed as fat, lazy, consumerist slobs. The New Republic argues that WALL-E’s love for EVE, the shiny white robot, is a giant plug for the iPod she resembles. Can we please see the movie for what it is? Animation art at its highest level. The first image ”“ WALL-E scooting around on urban terra firma compacting trash into piles that grow into skyscrapers ”“ is a grabber. As is the first sound: a voice lifted in song ”“ “Out there/There’s a world outside of Yonkers.” The tune is from the forgotten 1969 film version of Hello, Dolly, which WALL-E, his eyes like binoculars (hell, they are binoculars!), watches on an old, muddy videotape with genuine yearning. To see WALL-E and EVE dance and later kiss is movie magic. You won’t find a funnier, more touching love story anywhere these days. Directed with a poet’s eye by Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo), WALL-E is some kind of miracle. Think Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot mixed with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, topped with the cherry of George Lucas’ Star Wars and Steven Spielberg’s ET and wrapped in a G-rated whipped-cream package. The first, virtually dialogue-free 40 minutes are jaw-dropping perfection. The rest of the movie is more traditional, but never fuddy-duddy and always alive with visual wonders. You leave WALL-E with a feeling of the rarest kind: that you’ve just enjoyed a close encounter with an enduring classic.