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Review: Wall-E out of this world

Published June 27, 2008 1:31 am

Pixar adds to list of unconventional heroes in Wall-E
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

He may be the most charming character you'll see all summer: cute, inquisitive, romantic, adventurous and heroic. He cleans up well, too.

He is the Waste Allocation Load Lifter, Earth-class, or Wall-E for short, and he's the latest in a line of unconventional heroes - joining a cuisine-friendly rat, a self-absorbed race car, a furry monster and a neurotic clownfish - in Pixar Animation Studios' repertoire.

"Wall-E," Pixar's best movie since "The Incredibles," begins with a grim setting: the haze-covered remnants of Planet Earth in the 29th century. Humanity abandoned the planet 700 years before, leaving behind mountains of trash and a squadron of trash-compactor robots to tidy up. Our friend Wall-E is the last working robot, cannibalizing parts from his defunct brethren and keeping a collection of offbeat objects he has found - including a cherished VHS copy of "Hello, Dolly," from which he learns about romance, holding hands and dancing.

Everything changes when Wall-E meets Eve, a sleek egg-shaped robot whose elegance is a contrast to Wall-E's rough, boxy look. Eve is on a mission, and when she completes that mission, she's carried back into space. Wall-E comes along for the ride, which brings him to the S.S. Axiom, a spacegoing cruise ship where the now-obese human race has lived in overpampered comfort for centuries.

Director-writer Andrew Stanton ("Finding Nemo") captures his characters' two worlds - Wall-E's garbage-choked Earth and Eve's high-tech Axiom - with images that are both awe-inspiring and realistic enough to touch. Even more realistic are Wall-E's mechanical moves, so authentic to robotic design that you could forget he's a computer-animation construction even when he attempts to tap-dance with a hat (OK, a hubcap) and cane.

A key to Wall-E's charm is his "voice," electronic clicks and beeps devised by Oscar-winning sound designer Ben Burtt, the man who made R2-D2 talk. Burtt's ear for communicating Wall-E's optimism and determination turns this little yellow box with the binocular eyes into a living, breathing movie hero.

Just below the surface of Stanton's space adventure are a gentle environmental message and a humorous jab at corporate overconsumption, thanks to the world-dominating Buy 'n Large superstore chain (represented by a glad-handing CEO, played by a live-action Fred Willard). But "Wall-E" never feels preachy or pushy, instead letting the witty storytelling and expressive animation transport audiences to another world.

Sean P. Means can be reached at movies@sltrib.com or 801-257-8602. Send comments about this review to livingeditor@sltrib.com.

Wall-E

WHERE: Theaters everywhere.

WHEN: Opens Friday.

RATING: G.

RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes, plus a hilarious 5-minute short, "Presto."

BOTTOM LINE: A little robot propels this big-hearted movie, another charmer from Pixar.