24. WALL-E (2008)
Director: Andrew Stanton
Stars: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, Sigourney Weaver, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy
Like Up, another one of Pixar's more recent achievements, Wall-E has a bravura opening. Ingeniously unfolding without dialogue, the film's first scenes treat the post-apocalypse like a silent slapstick comedy, only the Little Tramp has been swapped out for a squat robot with expressive eye cams. Wall-E is a robot on Earth after its become Trash Planet, a garbage strewn nightmare (and perhaps our future if we don't shape up?). Wall-E compresses the world's trash into tiny cubes using his chest compartment, and then creates epic pyramids of detritus. Until he falls in love.
From there, the film transforms into something more conventional, though still beautiful and moving. (Folks that are afraid of the technology should ignore this one, as it asks you to sympathise with two robots who really care about each other.)
True-story side bar: This writer was once a substitute teacher in a past life, and while subbing at middle school that used block scheduling (side bar within a side bar: Middle school students are monsters) had to screen Wall-E for a number of classes. Because of the long class durations, the film would run in its entirety.
After 48 hours had elapsed, I had seen Wall-E six times. The Hollywood version of this story would see each classroom tamed by the brilliant Pixar feature. Instead, what happened was the kids caused havoc while I was intermittently moved to the point right before the point where you'd say you were on the verge of tears watching Wall-E cry out for his beloved.
Real talk. —RS