Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday's Featured Film - 12/12/08

New movies are usually released to theaters every Friday, but who’s got 10 bucks these days to drop on a movie that may well be a load of crap? Given those odds, each Friday I offer an alternative on DVD that you can rent at your local video store (or in some cases, avoid at all costs). Some will be new releases, others you may have to hunt for, but all of them are available to light up your small screen should it be a lazy Friday night.


My favorite animated film of all time is without question Finding Nemo. Pixar is the most consistently entertaining movie studio around, and all their films are good, but Nemo stands atop them all (closely followed by Monsters, Inc.) as the perfect combination of charming humor, beautiful animation, and a simple, touching story. Nemo director Andrew Stanton has returned with Pixar’s latest, WALL-E. Heather and I had the chance to watch it over Thanksgiving, and though it didn’t dethrone Nemo in my mind, it’s certainly Pixar’s best since and in the top tier of animated masterpieces.

WALL-E is a robot, a Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth Class, to be exact. In the future, the human race’s ability to produce trash has finally exceeded it’s ability to dispose of it, and thus, people have left the earth on the Axiom, a large cruise-spaceship operated by the Buy-n-Large corporation (with Fred Willard in a nice cameo as their CEO) while robots clean up the mess and prepare for their return. However, the job has proven too large, and WALL-E is apparently the only one of his kind left. Over time, he’s developed emotions, made friends with a cockroach, and found relentless desire to collect little trinkets he finds while cruising around the planet. So continues his lonely, quiet life, until a sleek and fascinating robot named EVA (Elissa Knight) shows up. EVA is seeking plant life, a sign that humanity can return to the earth. Once she finds a plant in WALL-E’s possession, they embark on a journey that will take them across the reaches of space to the Axiom in order to save the human race.

The movie overflows with classic Pixar charm, and is remarkable for its simplicity. In an age when most children’s entertainment is loud and bombastic, WALL-E contains no dialogue whatsoever for about the first half of the film. WALL-E doesn’t talk, but he’s instantly endearing – a huge credit to the movie’s writers and the animation team that brought him to life. Pixar has long been notable for making films that appeal equally to adults and kids, and I wondered for a while whether this film would be too paced and quiet for kids. However, I watched the movie with my two cousins (ages 7 and 4), and they were quite entertained by WALL-E’s antics. I almost instantly recognized the musical work of composer Thomas Newman (Road to Perdition, The Shawshank Redemption), and while his score wasn’t as memorable as his work on Nemo, it still exuded a peaceful beauty that perfectly accompanied the tone of the story. While this is the most dialogue-light film of the Pixar library, there is still some good supporting work from Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Garlin, and Pixar mainstay John Ratzenberger. WALL-E is the star, however, and this endearing little robot steals the show. I don’t know how he does it, but Stanton once again crafts a tale that’s deeply heartwarming without ever felling schmaltzy. I can’t wait to see what he does next. - **** (out of 4)

WALL-E is rated G.

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