This is a sweet, touching love story and cautionary fable about the dangers of overconsumption. And it's a terrific movie.
As to be expected with anything from Pixar, the animation is spectacular. Even the pre-movie cartoon, a delightful tale about about a rabbit and a magician and a magic hat, is phenomenal (and why is that a tradition only one studio continues? When it's well done, as it is in this case, it really adds to the whole experience of going to the movies -- it becomes an event, a happening; it makes you feel not-so-bad about the money you're spending -- I mean, $6.50 for a matinee? Geez. And I live in a middle-sized city in a flyover state, even). Fortunately, in this case, the cartoon doesn't overshadow the movie that follows (a complaint a few critics snarkily voiced about Ratatouille).
The beginning of the movie is I Am Legend meets E.T.: In a city that was probably New York once upon a time, a charming, hard-working, bug-eyed robot toils alone with an animal companion, in this case the most likable cockroach in the history of cinema. (Hell, in the history of cockroaches.) Wall-E is left to clean up the literal mountains of trash humans left 700 years ago when they abandoned a planet that had become too toxic to inhabit. Meanwhile, the former population of earth floats through space on a massive spaceship, perpetually plugged into their iPod 2 million-point-ohs, passive consumers to the point where they've actually lost bones from their skeletons through disuse. What's sad is that the bloated, lazy humans of the future who can't be bothered to make eye contact because they're too busy making iContact don't look 700 years removed from ... me. Yeesh.
When a probe from the ship sents a robot named Eve to earth to see if the planet is sufficiently detoxed for human life, Wall-E finds a soulmate. It's one of the most tender film courtships you'll see despite its proceeding largely in near-silence (interrupted by the occasional romantic blip-boop-beep) -- welcome relief indeed from the buffoonery and bickering of most contemporary romantic comedies. Thank goodness the voices of, say, Vince Vaughn and Kate Hudson are nowhere near this movie. Wall-E and Eve fall in love and quite literally save the planet in the process.
You know this movie will have a happy ending, but it's an ending that's also a call for responsibility. Ask not what your earth can do for you, but what you can do for your earth. It's an important message for our time, presented in a simple, straightforward, pleasurable, lovely movie.
Recently on DVD
Vantage Point (B-): The poker axiom holds that if you can't spot the sucker at the table, it's likely you're the sucker. The same principle holds true if you're a member of a vast criminal conspiracy, say, to kill or abduct a world leader, and you find yourself asking, "Who's a loose end?" I'm just saying. Also, did you know that if a movie made in the past decade bills itself as having an ensemble cast, Forrest Whitaker is in it? Walk around Blockbuster someday, you'll see what I mean. Dude is prolific.
Anyway, this is a perfectly enjoyable, basically forgettable thriller. Clever enough premise, which is what salvages the film from being utterly generic: we watch an assassination attempt over and over, from a variety of points of view, moving ever closer to the "surprise ending." It wasn't a "surprise," but it was an ending, so that's nice. A huge chunk of the dialogue was over-the-top expository, particularly early on, but once the action gets rolling, you can kind of ignore most of what the characters are saying and ignore most of the plot holes. William Hurt's talent is wasted as the president. Dennis Quaid does what so many actors of a certain age seem to do: plays an almost-washed-up Secret Service agent who has one more act of heroism in him.