WALL-E (2008) : A.Stanton : 9/10
walle1.jpg||French poster :
WALL-E is the film with everything. Everything, that is, apart from a Wilhelm Scream. I refer not to the post-hardcore combo from New Bedford, Massachusetts – instead to the 1940s sound-effect which inspired their naming. Discovered by sound-editor Ben Burtt, it's popped up in many of the ultra-high-profile pictures in his illustrious filmography. Indeed, outside the industry Burtt was perhaps best known for the Scream – a pop-cultural 'meme' to which whole websites are devoted – and it's baffled many fans that he's chosen to leave it out of WALL-E.
Then again, perhaps Burtt knew that this movie was going to turn him from an 'insider' name to something of a celebrity in his own right: he provides the "voice" of the main character, a lovelorn, somewhat rickety robot – part R2D2, part E.T – tidying up an abandoned Earth some seven centuries hence. After an aeon of humdrum toil, WALL-E's loneliness finally ends when the planet is visited by the hyper-advanced EVE, a 'female' droid sent by humanity – occupying a vast spaceship until their home-world is rendered habitable – to scan for the possible return of plant-life. Romantic, dramatic complications instantly ensue.
For nearly a decade, Brad Bird's The Iron Giant (1999) has stood unsurpassed among children's movies – so how apt that another "robot picture" should finally be the one to eclipse it. Of course, both films are equally rewarding and accessible to adults and kids. Indeed, it's tough to imagine any viewer finding much fault with the best-reviewed release of 2008 – a near-unanimity of wildly enthusiastic raves earning a Metacritic score of 93, 97% at Rotten Tomatoes. The Best Animated Feature Oscar is surely a formality, but is the least WALL-E deserves from the Academy: this is by some way the year's most impressive new feature so far, a leap beyond anything to emerge from Pixar Studios in their award-garlanded history, including the two Toy Storys, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo and Ratatouille.
As ever with Pixar, WALL-E isn't an easy film to analyse or critique – it's the technically-flawless product of an incredibly smart team of individuals, whose story has clearly been through all manner of careful development long before it's been put on the screen. But this latest effort has the magical sparkle – that extra mysterious something which all of the previous Pixar movies, for all their skill and wit, have (from this reviewer's perspective at least) somehow lacked.
It's partly to do with the social satire, which is sharper and more audacious than anything seen from Pixar before; partly to do with the superb characterisations of the principal characters – WALL-E and EVE – and their utterly persuasive chemistry together; partly to do with the super-streamlined narrative, which rattles along with disarming speed and directness; partly to do with left-field touches such as the unexpected, recurring prominence of a very young Michael Crawford, whose mellifluous tones accompany the opening titles and who is repeatedly glimpsed via a key scene from Gene Kelly's big-screen version of Hello, Dolly! (1969); partly to do with the pitch-perfect combination of comedy, romance, action and drama which the picture so unfussily and confidently delivers. But only partly. With WALL-E, we find ourselves firmly in the zone of that much-discussed, often mythical-seeming concept, the "magic of the movies."
98m (BBFC timing [102m57s – short Presto 5m20s])
director : Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo; A Bug's Life [co-directed with John Lasseter].)
editor : Stephen Schaffer (The Incredibles, Osmosis Jones.)
seen 8.Sep.08 Stockton (Showcase cinema : £6.75)