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Another Pixar triumph? Certainly.
Packed with wit and charm? Oh yes.
Several resonant homage-moments? Indeed.
Great for kids then? Not really.
I have moaned elsewhere about people selecting the wrong movie for their child’s first cinematic experience (see Harry Potter & the Philospher’s Stone review here). But surely this harmless fun with a lovable robot is a great choice? Of course it is, but the trouble seems to stem from parents making the decision to go (or being badgered into the trip) with children who are way too young to sit happily in the dark in a strange environment for such a long time.
As you are probably aware, the movie starts with the love child of R2D2/Johnny5outofShortCircuit working away, trying to tidy up the planet after the departure of the humans. Already, it seems, he’s compacted things into cubes and built several tall skyscrapers with the results. He’s cute, funny (rebooting himself with the familiar Apple chime), naïve and lonely. The pathos of his cave-home, rammed with salvaged items ‘which might come in handy one day’ is particularly well done, with his movie projector playing clips from Hallo Dolly.
His world is suddenly overtaken when Eve (he says Eva all the way through, but the credits said Eve), a clean, white, ultra-modern iPod-like robot with Matrix-like but superbly expressive eyes who responds to his gift of a tiny plant by putting it in a cavity and then shutting down. The second half of the movie revolves around their quest to demonstrate that the earth is ready once again to support life, despite the endless-loop into which the humans on board the mother ship have become entangled.
I went expecting Pingu, and I wasn’t disappointed. The bleeps and clanks are easy to interpret, and the utter lack of dialogue is a neatly-sustained feature. However, the film lasts 97 minutes, and the children all around me were talking throughout that time (except when they were being taken to the toilet).
I shouldn’t moan, but one child was asking lots of questions too, and the adult with the child was either refusing to answer or using semaphore flags behind my line of sight. A small red light appears on the ground, and Wall-E goes to investigate. Instantly, the child asks ‘What is it?’ The child is not old enough (nor movie-savvy enough) to know that we may find out in a little while, if only we’d keep quiet and keep watching. If we were meant to know straightaway, we would have been told, wouldn’t we? So hold thy whisht, sonny. The robot is shaking with fear and the child pipes up ‘He’s cold! Why is he cold?’ Can it, junior. The action slows very slightly, so the child starts a say ‘Wall-E’ really loudly competition. Button your lip, pint-size.
My impatience reached fever pitch (although I was very well behaved) when the child (unrestrained) repeatedy kicked the back of my seat for the last three hours of the film. I’m possibly not alone in wondering if the children were too young or inexperienced to be there, but I’m also wondering why the adults in charge didn’t make any attempt to curb the racket and the irritation-factor. Or perhaps they thought to themselves ‘you unreasonably sat in front of my kid with your great big head, so you get what’s coming, buster.’
The homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey was hilarious (one of the little kids laughed along with me as she thought this was the right thing to do; I'm certain she didn't recognise the connection and see the animator's wit), and the use of Sigourney Weaver of the Alien Quadrilogy as the computer voice was similarly inspired. The big line (‘I don’t want to survive; I want to live!’) sits slightly uncomfortably with the more effectively emphasised ‘Stop living the way you are, earthlings, or you’ll end up making a mess of the place.’ I’m uncertain if this movie will stop me from dropping litter or throwing away a Diet Pepsi can; perhaps it’s only hoping to add its voice to a growing chorus.
Can a robot find love? Who cares? These robots seemed to be satisfied with finding each other for company, and then with hand-holding and the occasional blue spark.
Delightful, but I suggest you go to an evening viewing, once the tinies have toddled off to bed and the parents who don't believe in training their children in the right ways to behave are down the pub, up the junction or setting fire to their trailers (okay, so I got slightly cross).