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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this winning Pixar adventure is thoroughly charming and, yes, romantic, the youngest viewers may get a little restless during WALL-E's atmospheric, virtually dialogue-free first half-hour. They'll still enjoy it, but -- unlike older kids and grown-ups -- they won't be that impressed by how much is said with so few words. But the action (which includes some robot fights, weapons being fired, explosions, and chase scenes) picks up soon enough. Underlying the whole thing are strong environmental messages: Reduce, reuse, recycle, and think about what you're doing to the planet (and yourself).
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What's the story?
WALL-E begins on an Earth centuries in the future. It's a bleak, garbage-strewn place whose only citizen seems to be WALL-E (short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class), a sanitation robot who's improbably enamored of the musical Hello, Dolly! Then one day, a spaceship drops in for a pit stop and leaves behind an egg-shaped robot. Her name is EVE, and she's sleek, speedy, and stunning -- and WALL-E is immediately smitten. But before the two can make beautiful musicals together, an unexpected discovery hurtles her back to mankind's current home: a giant spaceship called Axiom, where humans float on personal hovercrafts, interact with others via screen phones, and have grown so obese and sedentary that they've forgotten how to walk. Determined not to lose his new companion, WALL-E follows EVE to the ship -- and sets in motion a chain of events that just might put people back on a healthier path.
Is it any good?
This Pixar masterpiece manages to be profoundly moving and thought-provoking, yet still entertaining. Who would've expected that from an animated feature with stretches of near-silence, a deeply intellectual and ecological bent, and a robot with relatively few bells and whistles? Much of the credit is due to Andrew Stanton, who directed and cowrote (with Jim Reardon) the movie, which takes Pixar's success in turning out animated hits to the next level. Gorgeously detailed and, more important, ambitiously challenging, WALL-E is cinematic art -- especially early on, when WALL-E, alone on Earth, plays with his trusty cockroach sidekick, or, later, courts a reluctant EVE. They interact as if in an intricately choreographed silent movie, or, yes, a musical: She's aloof, he's smitten; she's distant, he's bowled over. (Kudos to Ben Burtt for adding such emotion to WALL-E's squeaks and bleeps.)
Early scenes in which WALL-E wonders at the detritus of human life -- a velvet box holding a diamond, a rubber duckie, a spork -- are especially poignant, particularly when juxtaposed against the massive pile of waste he's meant to tame. The movie's pro-planet message is hardly subtle, but it feels refreshing to see an animated film take a stand about a political and social issue. The virtually dialogue-free first act may stretch a bit too long for younger audiences -- even though they'll benefit from being given a green lesson in such a lively, fun package -- but they'll get the animated action-adventure they crave soon enough. By the end, WALL-E feels less artsy and more like the typical Pixar film -- not that there's anything wrong with that.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about WALL-E's messages. What is it saying about the media's effect on people? Do you think the future humans in the movie were exaggerated to be funny, or could that really happen? How is satire employed to drive home the movie's message on the environment and big business?
This film contains very little dialogue early in the movie. What do you think would be the challenges in making a movie about a robot who doesn't speak English (or any human language) whose only friend at first is a roach?
Why is WALL-E so fascinated by Hello, Dolly? What does he learn from the movie?
Why is WALL-E so eager to make a connection with EVE? How does he win her over?
- In theaters: June 27, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: November 17, 2008
- Cast: Fred Willard, Jeff Garlin, Sigourney Weaver
- Director: Andrew Stanton
- Studio: Pixar Animation Studios
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Robots, Space and Aliens
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
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