Animation is a funny art form. Since most animated films are made with children in mind, it seems that many still view them as strictly infantile entertainment. Speaking with my mom last week, I reccomended that she go see WALL-E, the fantastic new creation from the geniuses at Pixar. She replied, “but it’s a cartoon”.
In reality, the artform is making more of a move towards being geared for adults. Even films like the SHREK series, which were certainly geared towards children, were laced with jokes and references that no child could comprehend. They didn’t care though because a donkey that sounds like Eddie Murphy is fuuuuuuny.
With recent films such as PERSEPOLIS, animated films are even making it into the art house. Now comes somewhat of a hybrid of both worlds. WALL-E is a film that I’m certain any child would enjoy, and no child would really understand. Are kids going to grasp a biting satire of the current human condition? A dystopian view of our consumption and environmental problems? Probably not. But it’s ok because a robot that dances is fuuuuuuny.
WALL-E is essentially a silent film for kids. Now that takes balls. The first half of the film contains no dialogue as it charts the lonliness of a little trash compactor robot. The Earth is dingy, dirty and filled with smog and trash. WALL-E’s job is to compact the trash into a cube and stack them on top of each other. This creates skyscraper’s made purely of trash. Will kids understand this?
WALL-E’s world gets turned upside down with the arrival of Eve (designed by Steve Jobs) a surveyor robot that is in search for signs of life in an otherwise compost heap of a planet. WALL-E is bewitched by her, and their sweet, innocent love story is what drives the film. It’s nice in the current cinematic climate of Ashton Kutcher/Cameron Diaz dopey romcoms to see a truly great love story that doesn’t follow the script. There are no at-the-altar interruptions, or “You complete me” speeches. WALL-E is simply enchanted by a world that now has Eve in it, even if it’s a world surrounded by garbage. Will kids really understand this?
These early scenes on Earth are fantastic and credit should be given to Pixar for another outstanding piece of animation work. The action eventually shifts to the Axiom, a gigantic luxury cruise space ship where morbidly obsese Americans float around in chairs and have everything done for them. They are all perfectly content with this situation because, of course, each one has their own personal television set. Will kids understand this?
What unfurls is a cautionary tale about the way we conduct ourselves and the way we treat our planet. It may sound dark but the film has a very positive and hopeful message about our ability to right the ship. It bodes well for Pixar as they have yet to miss. They may have a classic on their hands here. So far, this is my favorite film of the year.