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Winning 'WALL-E' summer’s must-see family film

By: Jean Cress Special to The Press-Tribune
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The animation geniuses at Disney/Pixar should make room on their mantle for another Oscar for their terrific and timely new feature, “WALL-E.” Although a cinch to win for Best Animated Feature, this inspired gem of a film is good enough to be nominated for best picture of the year. Academy Award-winning writer-director Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo”) has produced a dazzling new eco-animation classic about the last little robot on earth. WALL-E (short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) has spent hundreds of lonely years doing what he was built for: collecting, compacting and stacking endless miles of trash left behind by earthlings, who have fled to a terrestrial cruise ship, the “Axiom,” awaiting word that it is safe to return home. Over the years, the small robot, accompanied by his only friend, a Twinkie-eating cockroach, has begun to seek meaning in his existence, collecting knick-knacks and endlessly watching the remnants of his one VHS tape, the 1969 movie musical, “Hello Dolly.” WALL-E’s world makes an abrupt change when he meets a sleek search robot named EVE (short for Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), and when EVE realizes that WALL-E has inadvertently stumbled upon the key to the planet’s future, she races back to space to report her findings to the waiting humans. Believing that he has finally discovered his true purpose, WALL-E adventures across the galaxy chasing EVE and his dream. Although “WALL-E” boasts an impressive “voice” cast, including Jeff Garlin, Kathy Najimy, Sigourney Weaver and Pixar veteran and lucky charm, John Ratzenberger (who has appeared in every single Pixar film), as well as four-time Oscar-winning sound designer Ben Burtt (who won one Oscar for his sound work in “ET”), much of the movie is without dialog. The film pays tribute to screen greats such as Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp, ET, and even “2001,” while blazing new ground in character development and dazzling style. Special mention must be made of Thomas Newman’s score (Newman is the cousin of Pixar favorite, Randy Newman) and his collaboration with Peter Gabriel on the film’s musical epilogue, “Down to Earth,” as well as the delightful cartoon short, “Presto” about a magician and his playful rabbit, which precedes “WALL-E.” Following “Finding Nemo,” “Toy Story,” “Monster’s Inc.” and last year’s “Ratatouille” might have seemed a daunting prospect for any other studio’s animation unit, but Pixar proves once again, why they are the platinum standard of film animation. By any standard, “WALL-E” is a masterpiece, certain to join the list of ground-breaking films that have forever changed movie landscapes and audience expectations. Finally, and above all – it’s eco-animation fun for the whole family. Running Time: 1 hr. 37 min. MPAA Rating: G Jean’s Rating: Four stars