Disney’s delighful robot brings soul to the machine


Who ever imagined words like “animated movie,” “science fiction” and “romantic comedy” could be used to describe the same film? Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures, that’s who. Their new film “WALL-E” is about a lonely robot left behind when everyone on Earth was evacuated - and viewers of all ages are giving it raves.

At one time, thousands of robots were assigned by the Buy n Large Corporation to clean up the planet before everyone was evacuated and the robots turned off. One robot was not turned off, and for 700 years WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Liffter Earth-Class), who looks and sounds a little like E.T., is still stacking the earth’s trash. Everyday he finds some odd pieces of junk - light bulbs, Rubic’s Cube, VCR, diamond ring (he keeps the box only) - which he puts in an empty ice chest and takes back to his home.

When a sole cockroach crawls out of a pile WALL-E (voiced by Ben Burtt) is working on, WALL-E is delighted to finally have a pal. But it’s a day when the whole earth shakes and a futuristic space ship lands that WALL-E’s world really changes. He hides in fear as complex doors and levers open and EVE, a sleek probe-droid with a laser gun, emerges. It’s her mission to scan objects and search for any life on earth. When she comes upon WALL-E she tries to laser him several times, until they exchange names and there’s an instant connection.

WALL-E has watched the VHS of “Hello Dolly,” his favorite thing, and sees what love is all about. He knows about holding hands and the first time he takes Eve’s (voiced by Elissa Knight) sleek fingers inside his pincher claws, their hearts bond.

Almost as soon as she arrives, Eve gets whisked back inside the space ship which launches with WALL-E hanging on for dear life. They arrive at the mother ship Axiom where very plump Earthlings are luxurating in what they think is splendor while waiting to return to earth. Once WALL-E is detected, a full blown war begins between the reject bots and those who never want the earthlings to return to earth.

The movie is unique in that there’s little dialogue, but WALL-E and Eve easily convey many points. Kids giggle at a robot who has surprising things happen to him, and there are plenty of surprises in this movie. Even the sounds and the actions of the other rogue bots garner laughter.

The movie’s message, “Spending every day doing what he was made for but soon discovering what he was meant for,” is revealed through environmental messages encouraging adults, without pompous moralizing, to “clean up our planet,” and “get healthy.” However, the film also presents a heartfelt story that embraces many great concepts such as “never give up on your dreams,” “there’s someone for everyone,” and “good can overcome bad.”

There can’t be enough praise for Academy Award-winning writer-director Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo,” “Toy Story”) and his fellow cronies at Pixar for pulling off such a completely entertaining package as “WALL-E.” The production value is stupendous with incredible thought put into the look of the film and the characteristics of the bots, right down to the question - should WALL-E have an elbow?

Part of Stanton’s vision for the film was in capturing the look and feel of movies he saw growing up like “Star Wars,” and “Close Encounters.” “I hadn’t seen a movie since then that made me feel that same way when we went out to space; so I wanted to recapture that feeling,” he said.

In a world moving too fast and changing too rapidly, it’s rare to have a moment to pause and reflect on what’s really important in life and enjoy it at the same time. Happily, there are lots of those moments in “WALL-E.”