Wild Child

Animation film voiced by Jeff Garlin, Ben Burtt, Fred Willard and Kim Kopf. Directed by Andrew Stanton
Running Time: 98 mins
Rated: Rated G
Andrew Stanton directed Finding Nemo and contributed to many Pixar Studios films including Toy Story. This is enough to recommend a look at WALL.E. And the reputation of Pixar with its string of excellent animated films (always preceded as is WALL.E) by an entertaining short film, stands very high. It may go even higher with this unusual film.

It should be said at the outset that this is not a film made with small children in mind. They may well not follow the plot and may lose interest despite an initial curiosity about WALL.E and his world. Rather, this is a film for adults to enjoy and for children who enjoy reflecting on what they see.

Next, some words of praise for the animation itself. It is highly imaginative in its creation of WALL.E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter, Earth-Class), the lone robot on earth who is still programmed centuries later to keep collecting garbage, packing it, processing it and piling its neatly produced blocks into litter skyscrapers. WALL.E moves with agility and, with the aid of a mechanised voice (supplied by Ben Burtt who worked on the robots in Star Wars) and binocular eyes, seems almost human. The other robots are also striking, especially the leading 'lady', EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), a modernistic polished oval who is ethereally mobile. And there are some other humorous robots like a malfunctioning umbrella as well as the spy on the space ship who rids it of contaminants and the sinister wheel autopilot, OTTO, who is made to look like a relative of 2001's HAL.

While the abandoned earth and the decaying metropolis are fascinating to watch (and so much of this is without dialogue), so are many of the scenes (some almost balletic) in space. On the other hand, the hedonistic spacecraft looks like a luxury liner with its two dimensional obese humans.

This is a message film through story and characters rather than an explicit lesson. The Earth has been abandoned 700 years earlier and lazy humans are having an extended holiday in space. But, the captain is still on the lookout for signs that they should return. When WALL.E finds a plant, EVE is sent to investigate and drama ensues as WALL.E follows EVE into space, when robots following orders try to destroy the plant and when the fat humans actually try to stand up and walk.

One of the devices for helping establish WALL.E and his character and routine is to have him play his only remaining video (no DVDs seem to have survived). It is Hello Dolly and he replays the 'Put on Your Sunday Hat' song as well as 'It Only Takes a Moment', over and over as happy reminders of what cheerful human life could be. The finale of 'Moment' with Michael Crawford's hand clasping Marianne McAndrews' hand becomes a key symbol.

So, one might say this is a cross-genre film. There is amusing robot comedy and human spoofs. There is the unlikely romance of two robots made credible. There is futuristic drama. There is science fiction. There is space drama. And there is ecological message - and hope via a green future.

Walt Disney Out September 18

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

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