WALL·E ★★★★★

“Dancing: A series of movements involving two partners, where speed and rhythm match harmoniously with music.”

Sunrise. Time to get up. He goes about his work earnestly. He’s bright and inquisitive by nature, but also reserved. Shy and retiring, but sincerely warm-hearted. In the evening, he returns home. It’s clean, if a bit cluttered. He’s a collector, stockpiling physical objects few would choose to keep. An observer might say he’s a hoarder, but only because that observer fails to recognize his collection’s value. And then he loses himself in a movie, gazing wistfully at the fantasy it offers. A little song. A little dance. A hand to hold.

He doesn’t let the loneliness overwhelm him. His work and his cockroach pal keep him occupied, not to mention his trinkets. But the movie shows something more. Yet looking around, there’s...no one.

Until someone arrives. She’s beautiful and displays a ferocious intelligence. She is evolved far beyond him; that much is readily apparent. He steels himself sufficiently to ask her name. He’s so delighted he can’t quite pronounce it. He shares with her his home, his knick-knacks, his movie. She’s charmed by his peculiarity. His forlorn eyes perk up. Maybe he’s found a hand to hold.

And so they dance. She’s graceful and intuitive; he needs the help of some equipment to hold the beat. But they match harmoniously. Surrounded by the vastness of space, with no one around but the two of them. Partners.

He is the logical evolutionary offspring of the nerd. He's me. She is the thunderbolt who interrupted his solitary routine. How undeservedly lucky I am.

WALL•E is so many things: a sci-fi adventure, a cautionary tale of consumerism run amok, an environmentalist warning, a warm Chaplinesque comedy. Andrew Stanton pulls off an astonishing bait-and-switch, offering a mass audience ample social commentary in the Trojan Horse-guise of a summer family entertainment. The Axiom, with its loads of humans constantly in close quarters but never in contact, points to the dangers of a solipsistic society focused on material acquisition and obsessed with technological convenience. Their physical atrophy is an outgrowth of their emotional lethargy, their omnipresent computer screens a coronary embolism. To have snuck all of this into a mainstream blockbuster is nothing short of ingenious.

But most of all, WALL•E is a love story. (That it is an engrossing love story between two nearly wordless robots speaks to Pixar’s creative brilliance.) Like many love stories, it sees a woman rescue a man. Yet the film, like its title character, is different. WALL•E (Ben Burtt) isn’t a slovenly man-child, an overgrown adolescent whose desire to evade responsibility must be coddled lest an audience not buy tickets. Nor is EVE (Elissa Knight) a shrieking harpy seeking to impose domesticity on her winsome-yet-juvenile beau, a teenage boy’s misogynistic nightmare of adult relationships. WALL•E is a good, kind robot. He’s thoughtful and hard-working. He’s not at all childish, even if he enjoys his Rubik’s Cube collection. And EVE is smart and competent and strong, but with a sense of humor and a good-natured curiousness. Neither must fundamentally alter themselves for the other. Like all good relationships, they work because they complement each other as dance partners do. Their movements are often separate but matching. And at just the right moment, they extend their hands, knowing their partner’s hand will be there.

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