One Is the Loneliest Number


Pixar's animated movies remain the benchmark for the movie galaxy. Their latest blockbuster, WALL-E, shatters all notions of how a movie can be rated "G" and still retain dignity and adult themes that resonate for everyone; in this case, how love can conquer fear and how "corporatization" is ruining our quality of life. Just the opposite of what most naive people really believe.

When was the last time -- There Will Be Blood aside -- a movie featured no dialog for the first twenty minutes. Kudos to the meticulous direction of Andrew Stanton, who previously directed Finding Nemo, for keeping our eyes riveted to the screen. Seven hundred years in the future, Earth has become one gigantic junkyard thanks in part to the "Wal-Mart"-like corporation "Buy N Large," and in doing so has forced man to colonize in space on a gigantic cruise ship where grossly overweight humans hover, flitting from one inane activity to another on their gravity-free La-Z-Boys, completely distracted by their visual date screens, yet woefully detached from each other. All of their needs are fulfilled by robots for everything. And ultimately it's robots that steer them back to humanity and an organic life again.

WALL-E, an acronym for "Waste Allocation Load Lifter-Earth-Class," is the lone trash compacting robot left to clean up humanity's trash. All of his years alone have left him to be one curious little robot, and rummaging around the giant trash heaps affords him one cool 20th century tschakes collection -- from a battered Rubik's Cube to his much beloved nightly viewing of a Betamax tape version of Hello Dolly jacked into his video iPod. The usage of Hello Dolly footage to help the lonely robot program emotion into his circuitry is just one of many clever pop culture references that had the entire audience let out a audible collective "ahhhh." I agree with a fellow critic who suggested that there is so much going on in this movie that you can't possibly take it all in in one viewing. No doubt it will be dissected by film critics and fans for years to come.

But more than the eye-popping detail in the animation, this is a movie that tugs on your heart and soul. No easy feat for CGI-driven eye candy. My young daughter certainly felt WALL-E's loneliness and rooted for this "little engine that could." In fact, one could feel the entire theater rooting for his unrequited love to finally be consummated with his new girlfriend EVE, AKA "Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator." (EVE was designed by Apple's behind-the-scenes design guru Johnny Ive and is more than pod-like.) Without spoon feeding you the entire narrative, she is deployed to Earth to search for life. And even though the first act of the movie does borrow a narrative element from the second half of Spielberg's criminally misunderstood SciFi masterpiece A.I., the movie unfurls to a satisfying and redemptive ending. Plus a heady, mixed bag score by Thomas Newman and Peter Garbriel's gorgeous "Down To Earth" to accompany a very clever epilogue during the closing credits. ]

If you care about your future, take your children and help them free themselves of all that could ultimately consume them.