So last night, I polled some folks as to whether I should go see Wall-E or stay home and get some work done. The response was overwhelming–go see that damn movie. I wasn’t convinced. The kids movie phenomenon is always tricky. Even when you see a really good kids movie, it’s still a kids movie. I feel a little silly going alone to a kids movie on a Tuesday night. The response though, like I said, was intensely overwhelming, so I headed over to Cobble Hill for a 9pm showing. The theater was pretty packed. Not packed like it will be next week for The Dark Knight, but pretty damn packed for a Tuesday at 9 showing of a kids movie. Good sign, I thought. And it was.
So first thing about Wall-E is this: it’s great. Unabashedly great. Like great in the real sense of the world–it’s a great achievement, technically and artistically. A few summers back, I watched West Side Story on the big screen in Cleveland, and the movie ended, and I sat there, stunned at what I had just seen. I felt like that through much of Wall-E. It’s just gorgeous visually–there were several moments where I literally said “wow.” Out loud.
So there’s the beauty thing, but then there’s this wild edge to it, a politicism that you never see in a movie that cost $180 million to make. It’s almost propaganda, really, didactic even, and if I wasn’t already in political agreement with its argument, I have no clue how I’d feel about that. But I do agree with the eco-friendliness and the anti-consumerism, and I think they’re important things to get across. Of course, it’s a Disney movie, so how anti-consumerism can it really be? Parents are certainly being encouraged to buy Wall-E junk (and I include this link not to join in the frenzy but to illustrate it–i mean, they have a website called DISNEY SHOPPING, people), and that’s unavoidable, I guess, but problematic. And it’s problematic in a major enough way for me that I couldn’t say I loved the movie–liked it a whole lot, yes, admired it dearly, and highly recommend it, but was certainly rubbed the wrong way on this front.
The other weird thing about this being a movie that sells a ton of toys is that I kept asking myself–is this a kid’s movie? And it is, of course–the kids love the robots and the action and the silliness, and the story is simple and easy to follow, and it’s not dumb and doesn’t play down to children–which makes it the kind of movie I’d want my kids to be watching. It’s certainly not only a kids movie too–it’s wildly mature in a ton of ways, none of which get in the way of the kidliness of it all.
And then there’s the love stuff. And it’s kind of a deep love stuff–the honor and duty and responsibility of loving someone, of being in love with them. It comes out of love at first sight, which is always and only based on physical attraction, even in robots, but then it’s about how far you’d go, not to prove love but because of love, and that makes me look at myself and see all the ways I’ve fallen short in that regard, and then I realize it’s a movie about robots–and roaches–and, well, it’s still making me deal with all that.
AND THEN it’s about language and breakdowns of language and the insufficiency of words and the fact that you don’t really need words–I mean, fully half the dialogue is “Eva” and “Wall-E,” and maybe they say it a little too much even. And it just looks beautiful (yes, we’re back to that)–you don’t even think about the animation until the people show up, and even then, there’s a gag to explain that, and a hilarious gag at that. The animation is such a part of the storytelling–when they choose to use the live action, it’s for a purpose, and it’s all tied back to the politicism, but since it’s also tied to the art, it comes off kind of seamless, and hardly draws attention to itself at all.
And then, really most importantly, there’s this sweetness, this random acts thing–all the positive chaos happens from Wall-E following his love. He’s astoundingly single-minded–first, he cleans up the trash, then he pursues his lady–and he never attempts to help out the people around him, never attempts to repopulate earth or make the humans break out of their cocoons, but he does, just by doing what he so desperately believes in. And if you think that doesn’t resonate deeply with me, you don’t know me (which is possible, this being a blog and all). There’s a great simple line that I can quote with giving anything away: “Wall-E! Hey, it’s you buddy John!” — I mean, there’s no way to really express why that’s such a great moment, but it is. Things happen around you when you do what you believe in. That, to me, is really what this movie is about.
The whole thing is just smart and sweet in the best way those words can be used.