I probably shouldn’t admit that I’m kind of neutral on WALL*E, Pixar’s latest animated feature about a couple of robots that rescue humanity. It scores 98 percent on my favorite film site, rottentomatoes.com, and even jaded critics are deploying phrases like “entertaining and inspiring,” “flat-out thrilling” and “almost heart-breakingly tender.” Only a small-hearted, small-minded man would conclude his Netflix screening with the phrase, “Well, I’ve seen worse.”
I loved Toy Story, Pixar’s first computer-animated film about a lovable loser who eventually wins. But that’s been 14 years ago, and every holiday season since we’ve seen a replicating mob of computer-animated films — all about lovable losers who eventually win. For me, the cynical regularity of the plots and release dates of these things has become tiresome.
WALL*E isn’t a bad movie. In many ways, it’s pretty good — as long as you accept that robots might experience physical attraction for each other, and that they might also possess an affinity for plants. Right. I did like the vision of a distinctly American mankind evolving into fat blobs on hovering lounge chairs, whose only interest is mindless chatter and empty calories. Take away the hovering chairs, throw in an iPhone and a Ford Explorer, and you have a portrait of America in 2009.
That’s the best part about WALL*E: Under the bland syrup, a bit of bitter social commentary. But as an Oscar contender? I don’t think so.