Robots in love

Heavy message not enough to detract from gorgeous Pixar animation and sweet love story.

Directed by Andrew Stanton. Rated G.
Rated 4.0

Space is the frontier in which Pixar was born to operate, and it’s in the futuristic version where WALL-E takes place that the company’s celebrated animators have created their masterpiece.

From the film’s lonely, dusty beginning following our hero (the miniature “Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class,” or WALL-E) as “he” rolls about, continuing to do his work on a desolate Earth that has been abandoned by the humans who have polluted it beyond livability, the visuals are rich and seamlessly believable. And when the action moves into space, as WALL-E pursues the “girl” robot EVE as she returns to the space-station housing the planet’s former residents, the visuals open up in poetic sequences that pay homage to 2001, A Space Odyssey.

As the story unfolds, the main plot revolves around the simple idea that the planet needs to be taken care of … or else. But the real heart and fun is the subplot of WALL-E’s pursuit of the exotic EVE. She’s like the Apple MacBook Air to his Commodore 64, and all he wants is to hold her hand like the dancing, singing characters do in the VHS copy of Hello Dolly that he watched over and over. The heart melts each time his binocular-shaped head/eyes droop as he achingly calls out her name, refusing to give up the chase as he soars across space in pursuit.

The environmental message is a valuable and appropriate one for kids and parents alike, and the film does a very good job of showing (in a very visceral fashion that might be too scary for the real little ones) exactly what the “or else” might entail. The only real problem here is the heavy-handed manner in which the thread is played out. All the humans are fat and have televisions attached to their faces, and Earth was run into the ground in a vaguely Orwellian fashion by the president of a corporation, who pops up on screens via archival footage (played by a live-action Fred Willard).

It’s a chilly view that threatens to blow out the film’s spark in places. You’ll come for the genius of Pixar, you’ll stay for the love story, but you’ll also have to suffer the message just a little.