The combination of Pixar Animation Studios and Disney continues its winning streak with this latest feature, "WALL-E," a beautifully imaginative and touching tale set 800 years in the future.
WALL-E is a soulful-eyed little robot (voice of Ben Burtt), the last remaining on an abandoned garbage-strewn earth. (WALL-E is an acronym for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class.)
Little WALL-E has a monotonous existence trudging to and fro over the ugly rubble, compacting the dross and storing the valuables in compartmentalized bins, making only the occasional mistake, as when he blithely tosses a diamond ring but keeps the case.
His most prized possession is an old "Hello, Dolly!" videotape, of all things, And he watches Michael Crawford sing "It Only Takes a Moment" to his lady love over and over, taking particular note of how lovers hold hands.
His only companion is a feisty little cockroach with enough personality to continue the "Ratatouille" trend of humanizing vermin.
When a spaceship noisily descends and deposits a sleek, egg-shaped "probe-droid," EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) (Elissa Knight), it's love at first sight for WALL-E, who manages to captivate the mystified robot with his "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" strutting from "Dolly," and then shows her the love song footage. (We wouldn't be surprised if Fox Home Entertainment sees a spike in sales for that 1969 film, so poignantly is the music and footage used here.)
He also shows her such novelties as an eggbeater, bubble wrap, a Rubik's cube and, most wondrously, a cigarette lighter, with its living flame -- the first she's ever seen -- a revelation for her and a heart-stopping moment for us.
He offers her a little plant he's found as a token, which (as a vegetation searcher) she promptly stashes in her torso, causing her mechanism to shut down completely. WALL-E tenderly but unsuccessfully tries to revive her, and in short order, the space ship returns to repair her, and WALL-E stows away.
The Axiom space ship -- something of a floating Noah's Ark -- is ostensibly manned by an ineffectual Captain (Jeff Garlin) and populated by earth's obese, passively sedentary refugees, like pampered John (John Ratzenberger) and Mary (Kathy Najimy) who lounge on chaises, their every whim met by robots who feed them and push them to and fro. The ship's main computer is voiced by Sigourney Weaver.
A reconstituted EVE tries to send WALL-E back to earth for his own good, but he's stubbornly determined to stay with her. Meanwhile, the little plant has given the Captain a sign that earth might be habitable once again, but he finds that the ship's auto-computer has other plans.
WALL-E and EVE -- not to mention another cute neatnik robot named M-O (Microbe Obliterator) -- and the newly invigorated humans must unite and take back control.
Using Pixar's breathtaking animation techniques, director and co-writer Andrew Stanton (with Jim Reardon) has concocted a canny mix of sharp humor, honest sentiment and romance, perhaps the most heartfelt since the classic Disney days. (Observe the felicitous use of Louis Armstrong singing "La Vie en Rose," and WALL-E and EVE's rapturous dance in space.)
Though the earth landscape is somber and even a little scary in its ruined desolation, youngsters will focus on WALL-E. These anthropomorphized creatures -- especially the expressive WALL-E -- convey feelings far more human than, say, those in "Cars."
For adults, there's an underlying indictment of our consumer-oriented society (exemplified by both the mountains of gadgets left behind on our planet and the indolent populace of the spaceship) and a timely environmental warning. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the ugly wasteland that was once our planet should leave an indelible impression with all. For kids, the film underscores the virtues of courage and self-sacrifice.
For viewers of any age, this is an instant classic.
The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences. All ages admitted.
"WALL-E" is preceded by a delicious animated short, "Presto," a five-minute gem about a magician and his rebellious rabbit, also from Pixar.
These movies have been evaluated for artistic merit and moral suitability by the media reviewing division of Catholic News Service. The reviews include the CNS rating, the Motion Picture Association of America rating, and a brief synopsis of the movie.
The classifications are as follows:
A-I -- general patronage;
A-II -- adults and adolescents;
A-III -- adults;
L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. L replaces the previous classification, A-IV.
O -- morally offensive.
Note: Some movies previously were designated A-IV. Older films with this classification should be regarded as classified L.