28 June 2008

Film: "Wall-E"

Directed by Andrew Stanton

Story by Andrew Stanton & Pete Docter
Screenplay by Andrew Stanton & Jim Reardon
Starring: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, John Ratzenberger
Theatrical Release Date: 27 June 2008
Date of Screening: 27 June 2008
MPAA Rating: G

Saying the most recent work of an artist is his/her/their best work is not only a cliche, but usually nothing more than hyperbolic enthusiasm.  In the case of Pixar's Wall-E, however, that may not be the case.  Visually, the opening titles alone far surpass Toy Story, and as the film progresses, it continues to outshine the CG accomplishments of its predecessors in their filmography.  Still, many films look great; what makes Wall-E so special is its storytelling.

First, the story itself moves between a sweet, touching story of connection between the titular Wall-E and planetary visitor Eve, and a larger story concerning a colony ship used to evacuate Earth centuries ago.  Like the best science fiction, Wall-E uses a different setting to make a social commentary about today's world, and this is what distinguishes it from all previous Pixar films.  Clearly, concerns over the environment are expressed, but so too are concerns over our growing addictions as a society to automated-aided laziness, obesity, and the isolation that accompanies our cell phone and Internet use.  Yes, we're "connecting" with more people than ever before, but what can be said of the quality of those connections?  Wall-E may entertain the children in the audience, but hopefully it makes them begin to realize the world their parents have created for them....and to realize that it will be up to them to eventually try to make things right again.

Speaking of the children in the audience, kudos to Pixar not only for what story they told, but how they told it.  Much of the film lacks dialogue, compelling the heathens in the audience to keep quiet.  The screening I attended (with my wife and some friends) was the quietest audience I'd sat through a movie with since Fahrenheit 9/11.  Where other entertainment directed at children presume their attention span is limited and must be frequently bombarded with splashy colors and loud noises in order to be sustained, Wall-E proved that good old-fashioned quality storytelling will still do the trick.  It is refreshing to know that a studio as entrenched in the commercialized world of children's entertainment is still also daring and innovative enough to attempt such a production...and at the top of their game, they're good enough to make it work beautifully.

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