I haven’t really been paying any attention to the hype for WALLÃ‚Â·E, the Disney/Pixar film that opened Friday, but it’s getting absolutely rave reviews from critics — a 96% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes! — to the point where, for example, it made the Wall Street Journal’s critic sound veritably Obamaesque in his gushing:
The first half hour of “WALL-E” is essentially wordless, and left me speechless. This magnificent animated feature from Pixar starts on such a high plane of aspiration, and achievement, that you wonder whether the wonder can be sustained. But yes, it can. …
[T]he film stands as a stunning tour de force. The director has described it as his love letter to the golden era of sci-fi films that enchanted him as a kid in the 1970s. It is certainly that, in hearts and spades. Beyond that, though, it’s a love letter to the possibilities of the movie medium, and a dazzling demonstration of how computers can create a photorealistic world — in this case a ruined world of mysterious majesty — that leaves literal reality in the dust. … I must drop my inhibitions about dropping the M word — especially since I’ve already used magnificent — and call “WALL-E” the masterpiece that it is.
See also TNR’s Christopher Orr:
For over a dozen years now, the best name in American film has been Pixar. No movie star, no director, no writer, producer, or studio approaches its level of consistent excellence. Even Pixar’s weaker offerings (A Bug’s Life, Cars, and–in my moderately heretical view–Finding Nemo) have exceptional depth and texture, moral as well as visual. And its best efforts (Toy Story, The Incredibles) are simply transcendent, rivaling the finest live-action films in sophistication and sentiment.
Pixar’s newest movie, WALLÃ‚Â·E, is firmly in the latter tier, and quite possibly at the top of it. It is, in a word, a marvel, a film that recalls in equal measure Hollywood’s most evocative future visions–Blade Runner and Brazil, E.T. and 2001–and the silent intimacies of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. It is a story about love and loneliness, perseverance and triumph, the possibilities and pitfalls of human existence. That this story is told by way of the exploits of a tiny, faceless robot only makes it more extraordinary.
Wow. I guess I’ll have to go see it.
Incidentally, speaking of movies, I finally saw Charlie Wilson’s War; Becky and I watched it Friday night on DVD, having rented it from Blockbuster. It’s really good, mostly because Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman freakin’ rock. Watching their witty banter — fueled also by great screenwriting, by the way — was just an absolute joy. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in a movie, with apparent effortlessness, when you’ve got great actors playing the key roles. For a film that didn’t exactly have an elaborate or involved plot, it never seemed to drag at all. It was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. (Becky, who hates Julia Roberts, thought she was poorly cast and outclassed by her co-stars, and that she brought the movie down a notch. I agree that she was the weakest link, but I don’t think she particularly hurt the movie.) If you haven’t seen it, you should; it’s a great film.