To watch Wall-E is to enter into a world of almost pure cinematic pleasure. It is a love story, told through the medium of slapstick, to rival any of those of Charlie Chaplin. It is also a problematic science-fiction parable that rivals anything that Ridley Scott has ever done. And while I found the last two Pixar features underwhelming (Cars for being overlong and occasionally tedious, Ratatouille for imposing a standard and lifeless love story on the whole proceedings), Wall-E is an unqualified triumph of technology, of storytelling, and of love.
Like most kids movies, Wall-E is a post-Apocalyptic tale set 700 years after humanity's consumerist tendencies, led by giant Wal-Mart stand-in Buy'n'Large (BnL), have turned the Earth into a ruined wasteland. When the film opens, there are only two things that move on the surface of Earth: Wall-E, an adorable trash collector who is the last of the robots left behind to cleanup, and his only friend: a cockroach. Wall-E spends his days trying to single-handedly clean up humanity's messes, but along the way he's developed a personality, so he also collects fun bits of trash (Rubik's Cubes, lighters, car keys), converses with his cockroach friend in delightful warbles and animated gestures, and dances along to his battered tape of Hello Dolly.
All of this changes when EVE shows up. EVE is an Earth-probe of unknown function (Directive: Classified!) and as soon as he sets his eyes on her, Wall-E is in love. Together, they traverse the wasteland, as EVE searches for her unknown objective and Wall-E, lovelorn but mostly ignored, tags along (and tries not to take a laser blast from his trigger-happy would-be girlfriend).
Eventually, EVE finds what she's looking for and the action moves to outer space, with the lovelorn Wall-E again tagging along. To say more about the plot is unnecessary. But I should tell you that this is the best-looking Pixar movie ever made, which makes it of course the best-looking computer-animated movie ever made; both the vastness of outer space and the bleakness of a ruined Earth have never looked better. It features, especially in the Wall-E/EVE sections, relatively little dialogue beyond the two robots chirping each other's names, but you won't miss the dialogue, although you will enjoy what you get from Fred Willard, who makes an appearance not as a voice but as a video recording of the BnL president - the first such appearance in Pixar history.
Even without many words, even telling the story of a banged-up trash compacter who loves a sleek robotic space explorer, director Andrew Stanton has crafted one of the most heartfelt love stories in the history of cinema. It ranks, not just with Pixar's best like The Incredibles, Monsters, Inc, and Stanton's own Finding Nemo, but among the most emotionally and cinematically beautiful stories ever to reach the silver screen.