Considering I didn’t like the trailer, finding Wall-E’s Johnny 5-derived design bland and the premise dull, I was very pleasantly surprised by the uplifting experience of seeing the film. This is what Pixar should have been doing instead of Cars. This is their first film since Finding Nemo that feels innocent and good-hearted - The Incredibles is great but it’s smart and sassy. Wall-E is unashamedly cutesy and sentimental, as if John Lasseter and co took that thank-you from Ghibli to heart and started trying to make films like Totoro.
Balancing the Pixar strengths of fondness for the underdog and high-octane slapstick, it encapsulates all that they do best. The intro film about a magician reminds us that Pixar is great at expressive silent comedy, and most of the first act of the film reinforces that, and Wall-E himself is undeniably extremely cute. The second half has a darker tint, although it’s worth remembering that the reason given for the characters’ lifestyle is low gravity rather than laziness or escapism (not a hugely original idea): the effects of this sedentary way of living are not nearly as permanent as they ought to be, so in many ways the uplifting ending rang slightly false. But mankind is not central to this story, robots are - and bleakness has little place here. Pixar's small-scale story painted on an immense canvas cannot fail to charm.
Obvious and familiar, but then, it’s telling time-honoured stories in strange new hues that Pixar does best.
(originally written 21.7.08)