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Pixar's latest winner makes robots cuddly

After seeing WALL-E, I'm left with a deep and unswerving grudgetoward its makers: cartoon robots shouldn't be able to make adulthumans choke up.

That's an ironclad law, and not one of those stupid made-up lawseveryone breaks all the time like the speed limit or the "crime" ofshoving someone down an escalator and then blaming it on someone else,but a natural law. An animated robot forcing a grown man topretend to cough so he can wipe his eyes is every bit as surprisingand wrong as suspending yourself in a tractor over a big X, convincingthe neighbor's yap-dog to sit beneath you, then cutting the rope onlyto discover gravity's reversed and has flung you into the inky voidinstead.

It just doesn't happen. That dog's supposed to get crushed intosalsa. That robot, however adorable he may be, is not supposed to tapinto our meaty, squishy, laughably vulnerable emotional core. TV andmovies have taught me that when the machines destroy us, it will bethrough lasers, airlock failures, and unstoppable house-sized pistons.

Now that I've been ambushed by WALL-E's emotional attack, I'mfully convinced the only way to stay safe is to destroy technologyaltogether, starting with the computer you're reading this on andending with the inclined planes our robot masters would make us use tobuild their giant wall spelling "HUMANS STINK."

700 years after Earth was abandoned by the humans who'd buried it ingarbage, WALL-E, a trash-disposing robot, is still chugging along toclean up the wasteland the planet's become. He's the last of hiskind -- all the other robots rusted out years ago -- but he finds somesmall comfort in a pet cockroach, a collection of trinkets rescuedfrom the trash, and the small, single plant he's found in all his daysof 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 toher ship, and shuts down. WALL-E's heartbroken at losing her, buttakes 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 morerewarding than loving an artist's work, looking forward to their nextproject with a mix of excitement and the faint fear that, this time,the magic might be gone, then getting to the big day -- the recordrelease, the movie premiere, the novel debut--and being blown away allover again. The Pixar team has been so great for so long now thatgreatness is almost expected, but like last year's Ratatouille,WALL-E is a vivid world that almost feels more real than theone outside.

Light on dialogue, the movie builds its characters and story withgorgeous landscapes, iconic designs, zippy animation and physicalcomedy so damned delightful it can't be expressed except by a stringof profanity so shocking it can't be printed even in this debauchedage.

If that was all it had going, WALL-E would still be a moviethat demands to be seen on the big screen. But writer/director AndrewStanton'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 andfulfilled by the corporate robots who tend to them -- it dives intosatire you don't normally see in an ostensible kids' movie.

Honestly though, I don't think Pixar is trying to make kids' movies, Ithink they're trying to make great movies. More accurately, I thinkthey're trying to make the movies they'd like to watch themselves:lively, hilarious, touching adventures where the beauty of theanimation mirrors the story's clear excitement for being alive.

WALL-E is all these things. It's a great film.

Grade: A

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