Monday, June 30, 2008

The League supports Wall-E

Mangum must be getting soft in his old age. Ten years ago the mention of going to see a cartoon would have been met with snide derision, even if it featured a robot and dystopian visions of the future.

But... in the intervening years, Mangum has become a shell of his former punk-rock self. He has begun to fill his home with photos of kittens and lots of little statues of clowns holding balloons, and is always looking for new recipes for quiche and cupcakes.

Never give up smoking, kids.

Anyway, he pitched to me a screening of Wall-E, the latest Pixar venture. So, Sunday night we met he and Nicole at the Alamo South, and we were also met by Heather Wagner. And while we were all convinced that should Nicole and Wagner ever meet, time would stop and the universe might split in two, all I noticed was a small popping sound, like bubble wrap.

Nicole also got a new haircut. She looks sharp, but for some reason she felt self-conscious about it. And I should probably apologize to her about my attempt at complimenting said 'do.


I'm always far more excited to see a Pixar movie than any other cartoon. Its not just that Pixar is consistently 3-5 years ahead of everyone else as far as technology goes, but because Pixar's ability to tell a story is so very, very, very much better than what you see in 99& of the rest of family entertainment.

I'm on record with my lack of enthusiasm for the current post-Robin-Williams-in-Aladdin, post-Shrek belief that pop-culture references make a movie, or that having known comedians constantly riffing is character. I think kids and parents deserve better. I think if they want my dollar, I deserve better.

I haven't always loved every Pixar film equally. I think "Finding Nemo" is a little blah. There are parts I like about "Monsters, Inc.", but it felt like it was drifting into "celebrity-voice-theater" as its focus. That said, I'm a big fan of both "Toy Story" movies, so go figure. And I've never seen "Cars". Because, really? Owen Wilson as a NASCAR car?

My feeling is that the Pixar creators took a look at how well their short films work, and how audiences seem entirely pleased with those shorts, and took a gamble to apply that same craft to a feature length film.

Wall-E is a movie about a lonely little robot, left behind on Earth as mankind abandoned a trash-strewn, presumably polluted Earth for the stars and greener pastures. Wall-E spends his days packing, crushing and stacking the garbage strewn about the planet. Mankind hasn't returned, and in the ensuing years, of all the many, many droids just like him, only Wall-E remains, carrying about his tasks, with only a cockroach to keep him company.

How anyone managed to make a roach sympathetic while refusing to de-buggify the thing is a testament to the craft going into the film.

Wall-E has built a small home for himself, full of items he's begun to collect. And he's a fan of the movie and music of "Hello, Dolly!" which he likes to watch on a top-loading VHS player (oh, yes. Its the small things in the movie). While the movie brings him joy, it also reflects upon his desire for companionship, which is met one day with the curious arrival of a space probe robot seemingly designed by the engineers at Apple.

I don't really want to tell much more. The pacing of the story is fantastic. And though there were actually few children in our theater, the fact that the movie is incredibly light on dialog and doesn't rely on borscht-belt humor, nor fart gags for laughs, the audience stayed with the movie every step of the way.

Like much classic sci-fi, Wall-E is really a cautionary tale. Like "Idiocracy", the movie is really about mankind's consumerist, wasteful culture... but to tell more is to both give too much away, and to suggest some sort of political agenda to a movie that doesn't have one. It is a movie for our precarious place in time and for each of us as a steward of the future of the planet, and ourselves.

The visuals on Wall-E have passed from the flat, cartoon world of Toy Story to a world in which these two eyes (as bad as they are) often couldn't tell if some items/ shots/ etc... were CGI or photo compositing. And its something Pixar absolutely makes work.

Add in terrific management of a multitude of characters who, essentially, don't speak, terrifically directed scenes, and humor based on characters, motivations, etc... that actually works, and I think you've got the best Pixar movie since "The Incredibles" (which is, by far, my favorite).

Kids or no kids, The League thinks Wall-E needs to be on your summer movie viewing list. And, for the love of mike, see it on the big screen, where it belongs.

And now I kinda want to rent "Hello, Dolly", which I haven't seen since 1994.


J.S. said...
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Dug said...

I wasn't that interested in seeing Cars when I first heard about it, but it's actually a better movie than most out there. As usual, Pixar movies are more about the stories than the fact that the characters are bugs, fish, toys, or cars.

So far Monsters, Inc. is their worst film I think, and even that one has its moments.

J.S. said...

I loved this movie. I especially liked the part at the beginning when Tom Selleck had to take out that housecleaning robot that's gone crazy and killed the homeowners...

The League said...

Its been a while since I laughed Coke through my nose. Thanks, I think.

Simon MacDonald said...

Hey, I didn't think I'd like Cars either but I did end up watching on DVD with my daughter and it really is an enjoyable movie. I'd say the best description of Cars is "it's got heart". I can't describe it any better than that with out spoiling something.

Anonymous said...

EVE was designed by the the guy at Apple who design all their stuff.

Also, Ratatouille is really good.

The League said...

I LOVED Ratatouille. No worries there. And with these kinds of endorsements, I will seek out a copy of "Cars".

Michael Corley said...

I must agree, Isabel (5) and I went to see it and I was enthralled. I'm pretty sure I liked it better than her. But then, I've always been a sucker for robots.

Anonymous said...

I'll second? Third? a recommendation of Cars. Storywise, it's just sweet. Visually, it really made my jaw drop, especially the opening racing scene.

Samantha was obsessed with the movie for about a year. She still loves it a lot, although Cinderella has encroached upon it.

And I wish Disney would have submitted Sheryl Crow's song for the Oscar nom rather than James Taylor's more sentimental ballad.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Matt befuddels me routinely. I'll start getting really concerned when he pulls out the retro cowboy flannel sheets he's so fond of. You know, the kind an 8 year old had on his bed in the '40s. He does that from time to time. It makes him feel loved. No apology necessary regarding said 'do. I just prefer to keep the bangs low and mysterious, hugging the brow, rather than the Betty Page version (Austin is obsessed with this look)...which brings me to WALL-E. I was far more interested in him and his wanderings on earth than I was with the narrative at large. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the film as a whole and found it very likeable, but I was mainly interested in WALL-E and his poignant attempt to not be lonely while alone.

The League said...

Nicole, do yous ometimes feel like Wall-E, all alone in your hobbit hole with nothing but a roach for companionship?

Unknown said...

Ryan, that's so accurate it's not even funny.

The League said...

At least you can look in the mirror and know you have rockin' bangs.

And when you are lonely, feel free to drive southward. We are always here and the door is always open.

Steven said...

Was the designer of EVE Jon Ive, designer of the iPod and, rumored, future–CEO of Apple Inc.?

MacHeads had to get a few giggles out of Wall·E's "full charge" being noted by the Mac "Power-On" sound and that EVE's ‘neck-brace’ lighting effect was the same effect that you see on bootup ( I call that effect ‘Dancing Chocolate Bars’ ).

Anonymous said...

Wall-E totally looks like the robot from "Short Circuit"... minus the cheesy 80's style of course