Pixar does it again. I wish that magic could be bottled and shipped to other studios. With absolute efficiency of storytelling, coupled with warmth and humor, they once again unleash an instant classic.

WALL-E is a trash compacting robot, left behind to clean up a super-polluted Earth while humanity blasts into space. 700 years later, he’s the last of his kind left, still cheerfully doing his job, but lonely. In a few minutes of showing a typical day for WALL-E, we not only care about the little guy, we also care about his sole companion, a cockroach.

WALL-E soon gets a visit that leads to an adventure where he becomes no less than the savior of the human race. He’s the sweetest and most unlikely messiah ever put on screen. The movie is a joy to watch from frame first to frame final and beyond the great story, the technical achievements that PIXAR continues to pioneer absolutely blew me away.

Continue reading about WALL-EThe look of the film is so measured and cinematic, I couldn’t help thinking that this is the movie Kubrick wished he would make when he was developing A.I. Some of that credit probably goes to legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, who was apparently an adviser. The use of color and texture and depth of field (on the planet, less when WALL-E is in space) mark a leap forward for PIXAR, when I thought they’d already reached the pinnacle in this with Cars and Ratatouille.

The skill of the animators, also, has taken a leap forward where there didn’t seem to be one. They wring humor and pathos out of the smallest gestures. Great animators are in some sense great actors, and here are some great performances.

The sound design, by legendary sound designer Ben Burtt, is fantastic. While WALL-E’s whistles and beeps might be a little close to the language of R2-D2 for my taste, the overall sound design is what absolutely makes the long passages in this movie that have no dialogue. Plus Burtt’s robot voices make the dialogue passages too.

I feel like writer/director Andrew Stanton gets less attention than other PIXAR heavies: John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Pete Doctor. Yet he directed PIXAR’s biggest hit to date (Finding Nemo) and has had a hand in the screenplays of most of the rest. Perhaps now he will start getting some love. When I say that this movie is an instant classic, I don’t say it lightly. Everything about this movie is made to last. I have no doubt that it is going to rank up there with E.T. and Snow White.

If you need extra incentive to see WALL-E in theaters, let me just say that the short that runs before it, “Presto,” is hilarious. It’s about rabbit battling a magician who wants to pull him through a hat and it’s full inspired visual humor that ranks it right up there with the classic shorts of yesteryear. It’s particularly bold of them to use a rabbit of all anthropomorphizable animals. (Bugs Bunny casts a long shadow.) They not only nail the design — round head, huge eyes — but give the rabbit a strong personality without a single bit of dialogue.

My only regret with PIXAR these days is that they don’t make more shorts and features.

MORE:
AWN interview with WALL-E DP and animators
WALL-E Easter Eggs
Andrew Stanton interview