Finally! Pixar have returned to their best, with this superb effort. I was less than impressed by Cars (visually strong, but weak on the performances and story ... to be honest, I couldn't give much of a stuff about emoting vehicles) and Ratatouille (again, visually impressive, but lacking in the humour department with a story only moderately better than the forgettable Cars).
Riding to the rescue - Andrew Stanton (who directed Finding Nemo - Pixar's last properly good feature). WALL.E is both gripping for the eyes, but also gripping for the heart, it sucks you into the characters (especially the eponymous bot) and litters its running time with a variety of gags of varying intensity. You'll smirk, you'll grin, you'll chuckle and you'll out-right guffaw.
The pacing is spot on, you're never left wanting to get a move on, there's always something new to see and something new to ooh and ahh over.
Visually, the film is enthralling. It leaves you silent with wonder - whether it's the (actually somewhat depressing) destroyed planet earth, or the super-clean, lard-arse-infested Axiom ship (new home to mankind). It is, when you stop to think for a moment, quite damning of Western consumer culture (soon to become very much a staple of the Eastern world too, which for some it already has).
Quite rightly it pretty clearly says we need to look after our planet, but it never crosses into preachy, hemp-trouser territory as it's set several hundred years into the future, makes you giggle and looks incredible. In fact, it can at times become quite dark - the afforementioned enviro-disaster theme is one thing, but the Axiom's top secret directives (enacted by the all-powerful, Hal-9000 riffing 'Co-Pilot') are surprisingly complex and evil for a U-rated movie.
But then again, this is key to the movie's greatness. Like the best Pixar films, it appeals to kids and adults alike, all of whom get something different out of it.
Myself and a friend went to see it at a morning showing (when it's cheaper and less crowded) and we were quite possibly the only people there without kids, but we perhaps did the most laughing out of them all. Perhaps some kids might find it a tad dull in certain parts, indeed the generally sedate earth-bound opening is where said distraction might set in before the generally fast-paced Axiom-bound second half.
Plot wise, it's got all you could ever ask of a Pixar film. Interesting and entertaining characters with genuine heart and soul (you'll quite possibly choke up towards the end when our hero gets into a spot of bother, which yes, was bound to happen - a sequence which is truly audience silencing - you could hear a pin drop). The plot has real meat to it and leaves a lasting impression, acting as the very antithesis to the buy 'n' bin consumerism as symbolised by the film's mega-corperation, Wal-Mart-riffing, 'Buy'n'Large'.
Which brings me on to the joyless bastards out there who have to smugly point out the irony that WALL.E is essentially anti-consumeristic, but is completely commercialised in our world. Firstly - fuck off sapping the brilliance out of the movie. Secondly - they're giving the kiddies what they'd want regardless, stop killing the innocence of child hood. Thirdly - it's not a total condemnation of consumerism, instead it's a cautionary glance at it.
Consumerism works, but don't let it get carried away until it becomes a case of monolithic, faceless Buy'n'Large stores and branding, to the point where we all just become obese, lazy bastards lounging around on hover-lay-z-boys.
But what of WALL.E and EVE? If it wasn't for the fact they were robots, it really would be a classical love story between, well, the Lady and the Tramp. WALL.E is the dusty, bit knackered-out, old romantic while EVE is the bit of upper-crust (i.e. technically superior, with digital eyes and everything) totty he must swoon.
It's all incredibly sweet (not just when WALL.E looks right at anything with those big robotic doe-eyes) - all WALL.E wants to do is dance and hold hands with a companion (as exemplified in a worn copy of a musical he repeatedly views on his top-loading VCR in his make-shift home), and he finds that "awwwww" style aspiration in EVE.
It really is a wonderful film. Consuming, heart-warming (occasionally heart-breaking), humorous and genuinely awe-inspiring. In fact, this will be the first Pixar movie I actively seek out on DVD (pre-ordering ASAP), and has most certainly gone into my top five of 2008. Indeed, this will most likely be my #2 of 2008 ... The Dark Knight (still to see) will almost certainly steal #1 spot of 2008, which I've been holding open for months now.
Anyway, go and see WALL.E now!