Monday, January 05, 2009

WALL-E, revisited

So, the Top Movies of 2008!!! lists are starting to appear. They are pretty uniformly filled with foreign and/or art house films that haven't appeared here in Flyover Land. Yet. But at least one list contains a movie I saw. Yup. Wall-E.

Now there are lots of reasons this movie is brilliant. It re-introduced the world to the ectomorphic splendor that is Tommy Tune. It dared be a major release in which nothing is said for 45 minutes (more or less). It had Fred Willard. I liked just fine.

But a top ten movie of the year? There weren't any other movies that struck an emotional chord or made an indelible impression on the viewers than the obviously pedantic Humans Trashed The Earth By Drinking Too Many Big Gulps? Kind of a sad commentary on movies.

Look, I don't have an objection to movies that have a message, but I'd prefer that message be transmitted with more subtlety than a baseball bat across the cranium. In the first 45 minutes, we get it. We more than get it. Humans made a big mess and left somebody else to clean it up. The whole movie could have ended when Wall-E found the tiny green plant and took care of it. There--a small green hope for the redemption of the world. Moving, charming, even thought-provoking. What happened to the humans? What if they never came back? What if they did? Which would be better?

But we have to go get bashed with the message over and over again--humans who do nothing but eat, drink, and watch TV. They have no contact with other humans (so where do the kids come from? And who is making the TV shows?), but live in self-contained little pods of comfort and turn into pillowy blobs of flesh that don't do anything. Did we need that? Didn't we get that idea from all the trash left behind? What more did the entire second half of the movie do?

I'll tell you what it did: it lectured.

I don't like to be lectured at, and neither do my kids. They have started boycotting IMAX films (the non-major motion picture ones) because they just lecture. Oh, sure, it looks like it's going to be about the amazing majesty of the Grand Canyon, but it's actually a 50 minute harangue about water. And it's not that there are any suggestions about what to DO about the problem--just feel guilty about it as we grind it into your face.

And to my mind, that's what Wall-E did too. It lectured us, then mocked us, then lectured us some more, then slapped a Happy Ending over the credits. After a movie as delicately aware of the trials of family life as The Incredibles, Wall-E was truly ham-fisted.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

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