700 years after the last humans left the planet they had made uninhabitable through environmental degradation, one small robot is still continuing to crunch the mountains of trash. He is a Waste Allocation Load-Lifter Earth-Class, or Wall•E. His eyes are binoculars, his legs are treads, and his torso is a garbage compacter. But somehow, somewhere, he has developed the heart of a true romantic hero. His speech may be made up of beeps and squeaks but he thinks about the trash he picks up, puzzling (as well he might) over a spork and a Rubik’s Cube. He feels affection for the only life form he sees, a friendly brown cockroach. And every night he comes back to his little home and puts on an old video tape of “Hello Dolly,” watching the big dance numbers and dreaming robotic dreams of having a hand to hold, just like the characters in the movie. Just as we always suspected, after total annihilation of everything else on the planet, the only survivors will be cockroaches, Broadway show tunes, and Twinkies (okay, the lawyers made them call it something else on the package, but trust me, it’s a Twinkie). The genius of Pixar, the most successful movie studio in history, the only one ever to make more than $100 million with every one of its releases, is that they may spend blockbuster money on a film (reportedly $180 million for this one) but hold on to the soul of an independent movie made on a microscopic budget. They are happy to take on the consumerist culture that has made their corporate owner, Disney, a world power larger and more influential than most countries. They don’t rely on pre-sold characters (fairy tales, television shows) or focus-grouped storylines with all of the risk and quirkiness squeezed out of them — along with all of the authenticity and character. Like the humble little hero of this film, they hold onto their dreams. If that makes the films more challenging, less easily accessible, good for them and good for us, too.Indeed, that is one of the themes of this film, whose robot characters have much more wisdom, courage, intelligence, and personality than the humans. After 700 years away from Earth, humans have devolved into a sort of perpetual infancy, their minds and bodies all but atrophied. They float through their space station in hover chairs, mesmerized by media screens before their eyes that block their ability to see anything else. Food and drink are constantly brought to them by robot drones and they, like their space station, are on automatic pilot. One of the lovely ironies of this story is that the machine who watches “Hello Dolly” on a broken-down videotape is inspired by it to seek companionship and intimacy while the humans’ media immersion puts them in a constant state of dazed isolation. Wall•E’s life is changed when an egg-shaped space probe named Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator (EVE) arrives. At first, they seem like opposites. He is scuffed and rusty and she is sleek and pristine. He is a romantic and she is all business. But like all great screen romances, their initial disconnections spark their affection. In this case literally. Their kiss is electrifying.Wall•E and EVE end up on EVE’s space station where her mission is revealed — and then imperiled. It is the misfit robots and one brave human who discovers that he can think for himself who must find a way to bring the humans and their home planet back to life. Just as the first courageous little tendril of a plant is willing to give Earth another chance, so the first tender stirrings of empathy, affection, curiosity, and honor in the small robots and the oversize humans inspire each other — and us. Continue Reading This Post »
Thanks to Betty Jo Tucker for inviting me back on her Movie Addict Headquarters radio show, at 4 pm Eastern time. You can call in with questions or comments on your favorite holiday movies at 646-478-5668. Please join us!
In this interview from Disney, Sigourney Weaver talks about appearing as the voice of the space ship computer in WALL?E and about strong roles for women and flying a plane:
QUESTION: Is it because you are so crazy about Wall?E that you have done press promotion for the film?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: It is! I admire how Pixar have done the film and how detailed it is. I have seen it twice so far. Very few places are like Pixar where the story is still king and no detail is spared to make it as rich as possible. I am thrilled for all of us Earthlings that we get to have a movie like Wall?E because I think we need it. And it is so entertaining and touching.
QUESTION: So since you are such a Pixar fan, you would presumably have done this for no money?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: I was absolutely delighted, I was a stalwart fan, very enthusiastic of Pixar. I was delighted, even when I found out why I was cast, which was not for my talent but because I was in Alien. (jokes) It’s funny because I was sent a little film of WALL•E, who’s so endearing, and the script. The ship’s computer has a limited number of lines, but then I met Andrew and I said all of the robot entities, all of the electronic entities in this movie have so much character and so much heart. Being a computer I also think that I start as the voice of this rather evil corporation that’s gotten us into this mess, but by the end I too want to go back to Earth and find out what a hoe down is. So it was a wonderful world to enter, even as a computer, and I really, thoroughly enjoyed it. They also really let you play around, and I told Andrew I wanted to have an arc as my character, levels etc, he was very indulgent and we had a very good time.
QUESTION: What do you think about the film?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: I think it’s a perfect movie, actually. To me a movie that succeeds, at its best is a movie that’s about much more than just the characters in it, which this certainly is, from the first second. What I admire so much is that it has this totally endearing, captivating story, adventure and romance. But within such a striking context, to show Earth as it might be if we don’t take care of it, and to not pull their punches. That’s how the movie starts, I just have so much admiration for the way they’ve taken this on, and how they’ve gone for it. That’s why it’s such a pleasure to talk about, there’s nothing negative you can say about this picture.
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When the first five minutes of a film show us a wedding, a graduation, a pregnancy, some kisses, and two grave sites, followed by a reunion scene involving shrieking and hugging, we know we are in for an irresistible saga of friendship through love, loss, risk, and clothes. What older sisters get in Sex and the City and their moms find in Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood and Steel Magnolias, middle and high schoolers find in the “Traveling Pants” movies.
In the first “Traveling Pants” summer, the four BFFs used a magical pair of blue jeans that somehow fit them all perfectly as a sort of proto-Facebook for staying in touch. They sent the pants back and forth, embroidering status updates with mementos from their adventures.
Three years have gone by and now cynical Tibby (“Joan of Arcadia’s” Amber Tamblyn), athlete Bridget (“Gossip Girl’s” Blake Lively), shy Lena (“Gilmore Girls'” Alexis Bledel), and writer Carmen (“Ugly Betty’s” America Ferrara) are all in college, meaning they now have the kind of problems that raise the rating from the PG for the 2005 original to a PG-13.
The pants are about to get some serious mileage. Tibby is in New York, working at a DVD store and trying to finish a screenplay assignment. “Romantic comedy is an oxymoron,” she complains. Lena is in Rhode Island, blushing through a figure drawing class and trying to forget her first love, Costas. That nude male model she is drawing has a great…smile. Bridget has gone on an archeological dig in Turkey where a sympathetic scholar (Shohreh Aghdashloo) reminds her that it is not only the bones and artifacts we study but the people and their stories. And Carmen finds herself unexpectedly cast in a Shakespeare production in Vermont while at home her recently re-married mother is about to have a baby. As they face a pregnancy scare, repair an estranged family relationship and struggle with romance, the girls must find new resolve and confidence in themselves and in their connection to each other.
The real love story that is the heart of the movie is the friendship of the girls. They wonder at times if they are still able to communicate but they are always there for each other when needed. Like the first film, the sequel is refreshingly honest about complicated and messy problems and it avoids tidy resolutions. The girls learn that sometimes even with the best of intentions, people — and life — let us down but that courage, sincere kindness, and friends can help even when they cannot fix what is wrong. Even more appealing is the girls’ endearingly tender support for each other’s differences of personality and interests and the matter-of-fact mix of racial and ethnic pairings. The movie makes it clear that, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, no one can make you feel inadequate without your permission and it is one movie that does not imply that a girl has to have a boyfriend to be successful, happy, or complete.
A character in “Steel Magnolias” summarizes the female friendship genre: “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” The talented young actresses and a quartet of appealing swain make this story’s travels between laughter and tears a journey worth taking.
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