After seeing WALL-E, I'm left with a deep and unswerving grudge toward its makers: cartoon robots shouldn't be able to make adult humans choke up.
That's an ironclad law, and not one of those stupid made-up laws everyone breaks all the time like the speed limit or the "crime" of shoving someone down an escalator and then blaming it on someone else, but a natural law. An animated robot forcing a grown man to pretend to cough so he can wipe his eyes is every bit as surprising and wrong as suspending yourself in a tractor over a big X, convincing the neighbor's yap-dog to sit beneath you, then cutting the rope only to discover gravity's reversed and has flung you into the inky void instead.
It just doesn't happen. That dog's supposed to get crushed into salsa. That robot, however adorable he may be, is not supposed to tap into our meaty, squishy, laughably vulnerable emotional core. TV and movies have taught me that when the machines destroy us, it will be through lasers, airlock failures, and unstoppable house-sized pistons.
Now that I've been ambushed by WALL-E's emotional attack, I'm fully convinced the only way to stay safe is to destroy technology altogether, starting with the computer you're reading this on and ending with the inclined planes our robot masters would make us use to build their giant wall spelling "HUMANS STINK."
700 years after Earth was abandoned by the humans who'd buried it in garbage, WALL-E, a trash-disposing robot, is still chugging along to clean up the wasteland the planet's become. He's the last of his kind -- all the other robots rusted out years ago -- but he finds some small comfort in a pet cockroach, a collection of trinkets rescued from the trash, and the small, single plant he's found in all his days of toil.
His little world's blown wide open when a spaceship arrives, disgorging EVE, a shiny, curvy, no-nonsense scout-bot. For WALL-E, it's love at first sight; for EVE, he's just one more piece of trash.
Until he shows her the plant. EVE takes it in, broadcasts a signal to her ship, and shuts down. WALL-E's heartbroken at losing her, but takes care of her shell until the ship shows up, taking with it him, her, and the plant that may end humanity's long exile.
When it comes to art and entertainment, there are few things more rewarding than loving an artist's work, looking forward to their next project with a mix of excitement and the faint fear that, this time, the magic might be gone, then getting to the big day -- the record release, the movie premiere, the novel debut--and being blown away all over again. The Pixar team has been so great for so long now that greatness is almost expected, but like last year's Ratatouille, WALL-E is a vivid world that almost feels more real than the one outside.
Light on dialogue, the movie builds its characters and story with gorgeous landscapes, iconic designs, zippy animation and physical comedy so damned delightful it can't be expressed except by a string of profanity so shocking it can't be printed even in this debauched age.
If that was all it had going, WALL-E would still be a movie that demands to be seen on the big screen. But writer/director Andrew Stanton's story of the loneliest robot finds real emotional depth, too, and once we're finally introduced to the humans -- obese, entertainment-addicted sluggards whose every wish is both created and fulfilled by the corporate robots who tend to them -- it dives into satire you don't normally see in an ostensible kids' movie.
Honestly though, I don't think Pixar is trying to make kids' movies, I think they're trying to make great movies. More accurately, I think they're trying to make the movies they'd like to watch themselves: lively, hilarious, touching adventures where the beauty of the animation mirrors the story's clear excitement for being alive.
WALL-E is all these things. It's a great film.