Sparks fly in risky robot flick

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Sparks fly in risky robot flick

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EVE, left, and WALL-E are two lonely robots who discover the joy of companionship. [MovieWeb]

Pixar took a risk when it decided to make “WALL-E.” With what seems like a first half devoid of dialogue, this very unconventional animated film is likely to bore attention deficient children and put fatigued adults to sleep. But those moviegoers who fail to appreciate WALL-E are missing out on some excellent filmmaking.

WALL-E is all about quiet charm. Instead of working from a palette of Baby Einstein brights, director and writer Andrew Stanton uses sepia tones to render a desolate, devastated Earth of the distant future. By this point, humans have polluted the planet to the point that it’s unable to sustain life, leaving the humans to float around on an eternal space pleasure cruise. Earth, piled to skyscraper heights with garbage produced by mega-corporation Buy N Large, has been left for WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter ? Earth class) robots to clean up. But 700 years later, there’s only one WALL-E left, our lonely little hero.

The introduction of this film is intensely depressing, as poor WALL-E futilely compresses garbage into cubes that he neatly stacks. His only source of entertainment is a found videotape of “Hello, Dolly!” which provides the soundtrack for many a scene in this story. WALL-E does have a friend, an indestructible cockroach, but the skilled animators at Pixar are able to convey his heartbreaking desire for fellow robot companionship so poignantly.

WALL-E is a beautiful, well-told story with much comic relief, but it navigates a fine line between being an homage and being simply derivative in many aspects. Take WALL-E’s appearance, for example. Anyone who’s seen 1986’s “Short Circuit” can see the clear resemblance between WALL-E - binocular eyes and tread locomotion and all - and the older film’s Number Five a.k.a. Johnny.

Then there’s the fact that Apple influences are everywhere. When WALL-E’s solar panels are fully charged, he emits the Mac boot-up sound. EVE, a fellow robot who eventually comes to Earth to scan for signs of life, would easily fit into Apple’s arsenal of sleek white devices. WALL-E even uses a video iPod connected to an ancient VCR to project Hello Dolly!

Most striking was the similarity of WALL-E’s stash to Ariel’s grotto in “The Little Mermaid” (1989). Here, both characters amass a collection of curious artifacts of another world. But while Ariel finds a “dinglehopper” (otherwise known as a fork) in a shipwreck, WALL-E collects forks, spoons and, with his limited robot consciousness, a spork that he vacillates between grouping with the former and the latter. It’s an adorable, comical and ultimately endearing scene.

Some WALL-E viewers have reacted negatively to the film’s environmental message, which happens to come at an especially timely moment in global history. However, Stanton conceived WALL-E well before it was hip to be “eco-friendly” - this part of the story simply evolved from his idea of “the last robot on Earth.” The environmental aspect is far from heavy handed. More than anything, WALL-E is a story about being greatly in need of companionship, finding it and being a loyal friend.

WALL-E

Animation / English

98 min.

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By Hannah Bae Contributing Writer [hannahbae@gmail.com]

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