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Movie Review: WALL-E

Had enough CC for a little while?

Yeah, me too. So last night, I went to see WALL-E, the latest Pixar/Disney collaboration.

This is a perfect example of a movie whose trailer was poorly made; I remember seeing it last winter and thinking, "Why would I want to see that?" A movie about a waste hauler with a too-cutesy name on a desolate Earth? Where's the humor or story behind that?

But many of the movie critics loved this movie, so on a Cubs off-day, I figured this was a good time to check it out.

And darned if they aren't right. This movie is exceptionally well-animated (many of the scenes look "real", not animated, and the animated scenes all have a purpose, not just done to see who can out-CGI their peers), moves quickly and is actually plausible science fiction and makes a point about present-day society, as good science fiction can and will do.

The basic story you likely already know: WALL-E, the too-cutesy acronym for "Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth", is a little robot assigned to compact all the trash left on Earth after humans have evacuated the planet, having destroyed all plant life, so there's no food. This has been done, apparently, largely at the behest of the huge corporation -- Big 'N Large -- that runs everything on Earth (a veiled slam at Wal-Mart?) Meanwhile, human beings have evacuated to a huge spaceship that is run like a cruise ship and, over the 700 years they've been gone, have turned into corpulent slabs of lard barely able to move. WALL-E, for his part, goes beyond just trash compacting -- if he sees a piece of junk he likes, he saves it in his little "home", lit up with Christmas lights and featuring an iPod on which he plays old movies, enlarging them with a magnifying screen, accompanied by a pet cockroach.

Does this all sound silly? It's not, it's actually rather charming, but when a new robot appears on Earth, quite clearly female to WALL-E's quite obviously male, the love story begins. I won't give any more spoilers after this, only to say that there are the obligatory chase scenes, but those are the least interesting parts of the film. The social commentary, animation and homages to many prior films and TV shows (including "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Star Trek", and clips from movie musicals) are what makes this a must-see, especially since large parts of the story are told virtually without dialogue, and well done, I might add. It's getting some Oscar buzz for Best Picture, and that's in the main category, not "Best Animated Feature", too.

The kids will like the animation and cute characters. Adults will appreciate that this isn't just a formula story; it has depth and meaning. Don't miss this one. It's preceded by another Pixar film, a short cartoon involving a magician and his rabbit, cute and fun.