Owain Paciuszko 20/07/2008
Pixar's 9th feature length animation is an odd duck, part silent movie, part robotic romance, part satire, with elements of adventure and polemic thrown in for good measure. It's an ambitious and wonky cocktail that at times fits together uneasily but holds up thanks to Pixar's dedication to craft and character.
Ultimately it has one of the weaker story structures of any Pixar film so far (though admittedly I haven't seen 'Cars', it just didn't appeal); opening with the titular hero cleaning up planet Earth 700 years in the future, we are instantly charmed by this cute little box - a visual hyrbid of E.T. and Johnny 5 with a personality somewhere between Charlie Chaplain and Woody Allen. These opening scenes are bold, confident and very funny, managing to juxtapose the desolate horror of this foggy, dusty dystopia with the sweetness inherent in having a man-made machine be so caring and appreciative of the trivial nonsense that litters the planet. However WALL-E's routine is thrown into dizzy chaos by the arrival of EVE, another robot, and our hero is smitten.
What ensues is a grand adventure that takes our lovelorn little dustpan into the far reaches of space where he learns a little more about the fate of mankind. Some may consider what follows in this paragraph as a possible spoiler, so read on at your own discretion: It is in the human aspects of the story that the film takes some bold and stumbling choices, there is the inclusion of live-action characters that more closely links the fate of humanity to our own, but this is botched a tad by having these real-actors 'evolve' into computer-animated chubby hover-chair bound slobs in a shipboard sequence reminiscent of the sinister and satirical future vision of Mike Judge's under-rated comedy 'Idiocracy'. It is also unfortunate that the human characters lack the depth and warmth of their cold, mechanical counterparts, and in a way, it is a testament to how successfully the animators made us warm towards WALL-E and his fellow 'bots.
All in all this is a strange film from Pixar, a brave film, and it will stand the test of time as one of their greatest artistic achievements. However it is an uneven mixture, one that stops if from being as instant a classic as 'Toy Story' or 'The Incredibles'; though you will be hard pushed to find another film this summer that will deliver heart, humour and an important (if occasionally heavy-handed) message with such style and imagination.