WALL-E is absurdly cute, ridiculously well-done, and ultimately quite moving. It proves, ironically, that there may well be no need for actors at all in the future, as long as there are programmers; that reality is creatable. (Although, I can't imagine that animation could have replaced the ever-skeezy Fred Willard as the single human actor on screen!) But what struck me in this film most of all was the strength of it's social criticism; this, I was not expecting.
Kids movies are good at this. If you go back to watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit, you'll find much of the same, (especially if you've read Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation for context.) One could also say the same about Ratatouille, though this might be more of a stretch. One finds this occasionally in popular culture, although it's usually done pretty cheaply, often through evoking fascist imagery. (See, for example, the sub-plot of Wicked...yes, I've seen Wicked).
But this was done well, I thought. Basically a Dystopian cautionary tale disguised as a kids film, WALL-E delivers its message strongly, if a bit too strongly at times via over-zealous monologues. As one might glean from my recent posts, I've been reading some Orwell lately, and so one could say that I am prone to Dystopian interpretations, but I was not alone in this opinion. EM leaned over to me at one point and whispered "This is some subversive shit."
The ultimate irony, though, is the audience. Here we are, a bunch of anesthetized Americans at the multiplex* sucking down cola, watching a film about anesthetized Americans at a proverbial outer-space multiplex sucking down cola--(well, liquid tacos). I imagine that many didn't even notice that the movie was about us; and that it was critical at that. This begs the question: what good is social criticism if no on notices?
What's more, as Roeper and Phillips said in their review: "There are a lot of movies that are anti-consumer, but you can still get the fun souvenirs!" And no doubt Disney has already started pumping the world full of more cheap plastic crap that we don't need. I hope at least they are using recycled materials, lest they create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Though I have to say, the Buy N Large satire site is pretty fantastic. (Buy N Large is the Wal-Mart-type Big Brother that seems to have conquered the whole world. It envelops all nations under its banner. It is the ultimate victory of capitalism over, well, everything.)
In a nice twist, the site seems to have no mention whatsoever of the actual film.
*Literally, we were at a hardcore multiplex in NJ. It was intense.