WALL-E

First image: the Earth as a garbage dump, a future reduced to ruins. For theast 700 years, what's left of humanity has been cruising the skies in apaceship. Only a tiny robot, WALL-E (for Waste Allocation Load Lifter:arth class), scoots around on urban terra firma compacting trash into pileshat grow into skyscrapers.

First sound: a voice lifted in song: "Out there/there's a world outside ofonkers." The tune is "Put On Your Sunday Clothes," a merry ditty from theorgotten 1969 movie version of Hello, Dolly with Barbra Streisand.ALL-E, his eyes like binoculars (hell, they are binoculars!), watches anld, muddy video tape of Dolly with the same yearning we see in Michaelrawford, who plays a young store clerk at the turn of the 20th-century,arbling about finding adventure in a world out of reach, a world full ofhine and full of sparkle: "Girls in white in a perfumed night/Where theights are bright as the stars!"

First reaction: WALL-E, directed with a poet's eye by Andrew Stanton Finding Nemo) from a whipsmart and shrewdly accessible script he wrote withim Reardon, is some kind of miracle, Talk about daring. It's Samueleckett's Waiting for Godot mixed with Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and Terry Gilliam's Brazil, topped with the cherry of George Lucas' Star Wars and Steven Spielberg's E.T., and wrapped up in a G-rated whipped-ream package. What could have been a mess of influences is instead uniquend unforgettable. Tons of movies promise something for everyone WALL-Ectually makes good on that promise. It's a landmark in modern moviemakinghat lifts you up on waves of humor, heartbreak and ravishing romance. Wantroof that animation can be an art form? It's all there in the groundbreaking WALL-E.

The first, virtually dialogue-free half hour is jaw-dropping perfection,s WALL-E (his eloquent beeps come courtesy of Ben Burtt, whose soundesign for the film deserves an Oscar just for starters) watches a spacerobe land and discharge a sleek, robot named EVE (for Extra-Terrestrialegetation Evaluator). EVE (voiced by Elissa Knight) looks like angg-shaped i-Pod with the power to vaporize any potential threat, a scaryrospect. But it only takes a moment for WALL-E to fall hard for this cutie,ho lets down her guard when he shares his treasures, including anggbeater, a Rubik's cube, a Zippo lighter, a brassiere (don't ask), andubble wrap that provides hours of popping fun. But it's a fragile sprout oflant, which WALL-E keeps in old shoe, that gets EVE jazzed. Before sheeads off for the Axiom space station, with WALL-E in hot pursuit, the twotrike up an odd-couple relationship that evokes, according to yourenerational reference points, Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp and Virginiaherrill's blind flower girl in City Lights, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, Leo and Kate in Titanic, and – for the kiddies – the green ogre and the Princess in Shrek. There's been much talk about how WALL-E will fly over the heads of the little ones. No doubt some of it will. But the film'sssential sweetness transcends age and cultural barriers. To see WALL-E andVE dance and later kiss is the essence of movie magic. You won't find a funnier, more touching love story anywhere these days. I could go on about the rest of the movie, which is more traditional thanhat precedes it, but never fuddy-duddy and always filled visual wondershat take the breath away. Those viewers with a fear and loathing of message" may flinch at the script's warning about fat, consumerist humans and the ignorance that landed the planet in such disarray. But it's thrilling to watch Stanton and his genius crew of Pixar artists discover new levels of creativity. No movie can be a downer that fills you with purexhilaration. You leave WALL-E with a feeling of the rarest kind: thatou've just enjoyed a close encounter with an enduring classic.

From The Archives Issue 289: April 19, 1979