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.