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By Jason Ferguson | Posted 7/2/2008

Mike Judge's 2006 Idiocracy pictures a world in which garbage is stacked to the skies, the Earth is polluted beyond repair, and humans have morphed into brainless, TV-addicted lardasses who depend on machines to assist them in everything from mobility to bowel evacuation. Amazingly, this is the exact same world in which Disney/Pixar's new WALL-E is set. The high-level horror depicted in WALL-E--in which a Wal-Mart-like megacorp has convinced the world's population to buy buy buy itself into obedient numbness, creating a waste-disposal dilemma so enormous that people have fled into outer space, leaving robots behind to clean up the mess--is stunning in both its apocalyptic harshness and its anti-consumerist import. The dark milieu, however, allows the movie's titular star to be that much more adorable. All the other clean-up bots have been overworked into disrepair and now, some several centuries after humans decamped to the outer reaches of the galaxy, WALL-E is the only one left, dutifully going about the Sisyphean task of compacting trash and piling it into miles-high edifices. Over the years, the little guy has developed a personality from repeated viewings of Hello, Dolly!, so when a feminized exploration bot lands nearby, the rusty little garbage collector gets predictably enamored. Adventures--both on earth and in outer space--ensue. The highly physical comedy at work in WALL-E combines with the wide-eyed "humanity" of the little machine for genuine laughs and character-driven empathy. That this is achieved during a largely wordless first half is a testament to Pixar's highly skilled animators. That it's achieved in a setting even more terrifying and dismal than the one Judge envisioned for Idiocracy is a testament to the fact that WALL-E is smarter, funnier, and sweeter than any recent Pixar production.

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