Like all fans of the Disney-Pixar canon, I had high expectations for their new robot tale, WALL-E (in theaters tomorrow). One thing I didn't expect, though, was the film's reverence for the 1969 movie musical disaster Hello, Dolly!
From the opening strains of "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" heard over the opening titles to, later, Michael Crawford and Marianne McAndrew crooning "It Only Takes a Moment", Gene Kelly's hugely expensive adaptation of the classic stage musical starring a then-red hot but too young Barbra Streisand in the title role is referenced to the point of overuse in WALL-E. However, Twentieth-Century Fox could yet recoup some of their Dolly losses if the young viewers of WALL-E rush out and give it a renewed life on DVD.
As expected, WALL-E is an intelligent, ingeniously designed, touching -- even, at times, poetic -- animated feature directed by Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo). The title creation is a small trash-compacting machine, the last of his kind still functioning who were left to clean up Earth after people abandoned it 700 years prior due to toxic levels of trash and pollution. With an über-resilient cockroach as his sole companion, WALL-E collects treasures he finds among the waste and, inspired by an old VHS tape of Hello, Dolly!, pines for someone to love.
Hope arrives in the form of a sleek probe droid named Eve, whom WALL-E is immediately smitten by; in his effort to win Eve's heart (assuming robots have hearts), WALL-E follows her into space and to the mother ship where the oddly evolved descendants of those humans who left Earth await a sign to return.
There is considerable humor, intrigue and romance throughout this smartly written fantasy. What's more, it sends a strong but not heavy-handed "Save the Earth" message that could end up being more effective at inspiring viewers to change their mass-consumption ways than An Inconvenient Truth.
Be sure to arrive early before screenings of WALL-E to catch a hilarious Pixar short, Presto, and stay through the end credits for some brilliant animation and a terrific song, "Down to Earth", sung by Peter Gabriel and the Soweto Gospel Choir.
UPDATE: WALL-E is now available on DVDfrom Amazon.com.
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.