June 26, 2008


WALL-E "Many will attempt to describe WALL·E with a one-liner," begins Robert Wilonsky in the Voice. "It's R2-D2 in love. 2001: A Space Odyssey starring The Little Tramp. An Inconvenient Truth meets Idiocracy on its way to Toy Story. But none of these do justice to a film that's both breathtakingly majestic and heartbreakingly intimate—and, for a good long while, absolutely bereft of dialogue save the squeals, beeps, and chirps of a sweet, lonely robot who, aside from his cockroach pet, is the closest thing to the last living being on earth."

"[I]ts central theme owes plenty to Al Gore and the general proliferation of environmental awareness," writes Eric Kohn in the New York Press. "WALL·E codifies the save-our-planet dictum by injecting it with charm - something no snazzy PowerPoint show could possibly accomplish.... The green initiative has hit pop culture, but at least it does so with feeling."

Updated through 7/1.

For Cinematical's Erik Davis, this is "a beautiful sci-fi tale complete with all the feel-good vibes and fantastic, cutting-edge visuals we've come to expect from a film wearing the Pixar name. Despite a few small bumps in the galaxy, WALL·E can easily claim a spot up top on a list featuring the best films of the year so far, and it will surely go down as one of Pixar's most memorable - because it's also one of their most personal."

"No one can accuse Pixar Animation of not taking big risks with its latest feature WALL·E, which tells a love story between two robots (who speak three words between them) against the backdrop of an Earth that's been destroyed by waste and consumerist overkill," writes Alonso Duralde for MSNBC. "While the film's most daring gambits pay off in full, the inclusion of a standard outwit-the-bad-guys storyline dulls the magic that WALL·E so often achieves."

For Variety's Todd McCarthy, this is "a simple yet deeply imagined piece of speculative fiction.... [H]ow many films, sci-fi or otherwise, have proposed a future human civilization populated by people so fat that they can't raise themselves from their mobile chairs, in which they sit connected to phones, screens and super-sized cups? One can't help but speculate about the perverse prospect of plus-sized multiplexers laughing at these genuinely funny scenes while digging into their popcorn and slurping their sodas."

Via Jeffrey Wells, Devin Faraci at CHUD: "Is WALL·E Environmental or Hypocritical?" And Jason Morehead asks, "Are conservatives going to be outraged by WALL·E?"

Tasha Robinson interviews director Andrew Stanton; Newsweek gets him to list his "Five Most Important Movies."

"Plenty of internet observers have noted the visual similarities between WALL·E and Short Circuit's Johnny 5, but the more trailers I watched for WALL·E, with the title character zipping around through a lonely, ruined world and sifting the wreckage of what's been left behind by humanity, the more I was remained of another film entirely, 1972's Silent Running," blogs James Rocchi.

In the Philadelphia Weekly, Matt Prigge lists "Six movies featuring robots as protagonists."

Online browsing tip. Via Coudal Partners, Eric Tan's WALL·E posters.

Earlier: Katrina Onstad's backgrounder in the New York Times (where Michael Hirshorn reviews The Pixar Touch) and Mark Feeney's profile of Stanton for the Boston Globe.

Updates: "Daring and traditional, groundbreaking and familiar, apocalyptic and sentimental, Wall•E gains strength from embracing contradictions that would destroy other films," writes Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times.

"It's a masterpiece of its type," writes Jeffrey Wells. "It's going to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar. I understand the impulse on the part of director Andrew Stanton to call it a robot love story and leave it at that, but it's a lie, of course - a disinforming of pig-trough moviegoers who might think twice about going to a 'green' movie that satirizes their lie-around, fat-ass lifestyle."

"WALL•E uses our nostalgia for our youth to reconnect us with our essential goodwill—an appeal that's impossible to resist whenever you stare into WALL•E's peepers," writes Ed Gonzalez in Slant. "Messenger and messiah, he asks us to look into eyes that see much wear but can only be replaced so many times, reflecting back a future that is ours to either make or destroy. He'll clean up whatever we leave behind; just don't ask him to take any of the blame."

WALL-E Updates, 6/27: "For over a dozen years now, the best name in American film has been Pixar. No movie star, no director, no writer, producer, or studio approaches its level of consistent excellence," declares the New Republic's Christopher Orr. "Even Pixar's weaker offerings (A Bug's Life, Cars, and - in my moderately heretical view - Finding Nemo) have exceptional depth and texture, moral as well as visual. And its best efforts (Toy Story, The Incredibles) are simply transcendent, rivaling the finest live-action films in sophistication and sentiment. Pixar's newest movie, WALL·E, is firmly in the latter tier, and quite possibly at the top of it. It is, in a word, a marvel, a film that recalls in equal measure Hollywood's most evocative future visions - Blade Runner and Brazil, E.T. and 2001 - and the silent intimacies of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin."

"Although WALL•E ends with a very apt and moving nod to City Lights, it is in fact Pixar's answer to Modern Times - both a bravura summation of everything the studio is great at and a 'You ain't seen nothing yet!' statement of purpose," writes Glenn Kenny in the Auteurs' Notebook. "Not to mention that it's both a techno- and eco-fable, of course."

"[T]he genius of WALL•E... lies in its notion that creativity and self-destruction are sides of the same coin," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. Then: "Rather than turn a tale of environmental cataclysm into a scolding, self-satisfied lecture, Mr Stanton shows his awareness of the contradictions inherent in using the medium of popular cinema to advance a critique of corporate consumer culture."

"WALL•E pushes the purist aesthetic of Pixar animation to the borders of the avant-garde," writes Slate's Dana Stevens. "WALL•E isn't quite as transcendent as last year's Ratatouille, but it's more formally innovative.... Despite the virtuosity of its technical execution, WALL•E never feels like a soulless, well-oiled entertainment machine. Rather, the movie resembles its resilient, square-shaped hero: a built-to-last contraption with a disproportionately big heart."

"Incredible. Not only is WALL•E the best Pixar movie yet (an immodest claim, I realize, though I can't imagine you'd disagree), but its entire plot is devoted to freaking its audience out about consumer culture," writes Annie Wagner in the Stranger. "The creators of WALL•E are trying to get credit for the insurgency while profiting from the occupation. But all this seems pathologically cynical when you consider the film itself, a wonderfully insane and involving love story."

For Salon's Stephanie Zacharek, "the picture feels weirdly, and disappointingly, disjointed, something that starts out as poetry and ends as product.... The gloss of preachiness that washes over WALL•E overwhelms the haunting, delicate spirit of its first 30 minutes. This clearly isn't a movie made by a robot; the drag is that it ends up feeling so programmed."

"[T]he difference between WALL•E and any other counterintuitive hero (say, a kung fu panda) is Pixar's capacity for fully imagined, painstakingly rendered worlds and a genuine feel for emotional gradations - not gimmicks," writes Nicolas Rapold in the New York Sun. "The first half-hour of WALL•E is effectively the best summer movie all by itself, and its charm and sense of transport carry the film through its energetically but more predictably conceived latter portions in outer space."

"It's Pixar's most daring experiment to date, but it still fits neatly into the studio's pantheon: Made with as much focus on heart as on visual quality, it's a sheer joy," writes Tasha Robinson. Also at the AV Club, from Donna Bowman and Noel Murray, a Pixar primer.

"So confident is the studio in its ability to charm audiences, it has made a futurist movie that's a lot like an old silent picture," writes Richard Corliss, who talks with some of Pixar's movers and shakers for Time.

"The plot of WALL·E may be about a steaming heap of garbage, but the film is a garden of unearthly delights," writes John Anderson in the Washington Post. "One of the summer's presumptive blockbuster-tentpole-hits-to-be, the Pixar film is clearly making co-producer/distributor Disney nervous. And it's not hard to see why. It's too good. Too smart. And, most importantly, too dark."

"WALL•E succeeds at being three things at once: an enthralling animated film, a visual wonderment and a decent science-fiction story," writes Roger Ebert. "The movie draws on a tradition going back to the earliest days of Walt Disney, who reduced human expressions to their broadest components and found ways to translate them to animals, birds, bees, flowers, trains and everything else."

Online viewing tips. "What's the Best Pixar Movie of All Time?" A clip-sprinkled list from Vulture.

Updates, 6/28: For David Edelstein, this is "one for the ages, a masterpiece to be savored before or after the end of the world... a sublime work of art."

"Where Cars erred on the side of trying to make 1950s style internal combustion engines into a thing of shiny love to dazzle the most prehensile of animation watchers, WALL•E's anthropo-dwarfism goes the opposite direction, toward an eco-fable that's more than majestic in its detailing while keeping its characters exceedingly small," writes Ray Pride.

Also at Movie City News, Michael Wilmington: "[T]his movie actually ignites our sense of play, and of wonder. Even if you're way past childhood's end, as an adult or in your mature years, the film has some of the dreamy intoxicating effect of the Disney feature cartoons of the late 30s through the mid 40s, that fantastic run from Snow White through Bambi, especially if you saw them as a child."

"There is something audacious, maybe hubristic, in Pixar's gamble to market a potential blockbuster — to families, no less — so out of step with the expectations of multiplex audiences weaned on a succession of Shreks with diminishing returns," writes Chris Wisniewski for Stop Smiling. "But WALL•E dazzles, particularly in its magnificent first half-hour, a post-apocalyptic love-story in miniature that serves as a graceful introduction to the intergalactic journey that follows."

Updates, 6/29: "About once every ten years Hollywood makes a movie that is so 'outside the box' that you wonder how it ever got a greenlight," writes Jon Taplin. "When the history of the first 100 years of animation is written, I'm pretty sure WALL•E will be right up there with the earliest Disney classics in the pantheon."

"In WALL•E, Pixar's best film to date, the joke is on us," writes Matt Dentler. "The film flies in the face of all that is expected and acceptable: corporate America has destroyed earth, heroes don't speak English, and an animated feature can pack more heart and ingenuity in 100 minutes than we've seen in American multiplexes this entire year so far."

Updates, 6/30: "A very funny, beautifully designed, unexpectedly affecting (I cried, okay? The walking trash compactor with the googly eyes fell in love and I cried. And I'd do it again.) animated fable, WALL•E deserves all the riches it will earn for its makers, which will probably only pile up faster and faster as people look for something to take the kids to see even as the remaining summer sure-shots, such as the new Batman and Hellboy films, turn weirder and darker," writes Phil Nugent at Screengrab. "In the meantime, some canny repertory theater programmers would be well advised to cash in on the movie's success by pulling Silent Running out of mothballs, toot sweet. Although WALL•E pays comic homage to 2001 and includes an in-joke for Alien fans by employing Sigourney Weaver as the Mothering voice of a spaceship's computer, its strongest debt, both visually and spiritually, is to the 1972 hippie sci-fi film that marked the directing debut of Douglas Trumbull, still best known for his work as a special effects wizard on such films as 2001, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Blade Runner."

"Would I sound like too much of a moral scold if I said that WALL•E symbolizes every good impulse in Hollywood filmmaking, and Wanted every corrupt one?" asks Paul Matwychuk. "Or would I just sound like someone who can properly evaluate the evidence of his own eyeballs?"

"The media is playing two pointless games of 'gotcha' with Pixar's wonderful WALL•E at the moment," begins Eugene Novikov at Cinematical. "Eric Kohn addressed the first - conservative critics griping about the film's 'left-wing' message - over here. The other, best articulated in this post by CHUD's Devin Faraci and this mind-boggling missive from the New York Post's Kyle Smith, but also showing up in Todd McCarthy's Variety review, is that WALL•E's supposed anti-consumerist bent is 'hypocrisy' on account of it's released by Disney. I think that's a stupid and dishonest argument, and here's why."

Updates, 7/1: The LAT's Patrick Goldstein talks with "Pixar guru" John Lasseter about the studio's phenomenal success.

Blogging for the NYT, Damon Darlin spots to nods to Apple, while Chris Suellentrop notes that "already the right-wing backlash to the right-wing backlash against WALL•E is underway."

Online viewing tip. AO Scott on "Pixar's 4th Dimension."

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Posted by dwhudson at June 26, 2008 7:23 AM