Category Archives: wall-e
Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax ~ I learned to read very early, thanks to my big sister, starting with Dr. Seuss favorites like “Hop on Pop,” “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish,” “Fox in Socks” and of course the classics like “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham.” And although I quickly graduated to comic books, and then real books, I never lost my love of the Doctor (in this case, Seuss, not the guy with the TARDIS).
Though I had never actually read the book I do distinctly remember my first encounter with “The Lorax.” The night the animated version premiered on CBS I was allowed to stay up later than usual to watch it. I was interested but not very because I thought that previous TV versions of Seuss’ work, excepting the Grinch, we’re inferior to the source material. Yes, even at seven, I was nurturing a critical mind.
I had not just a critic’s thought process, but I was also pretty hip to propaganda, even if it was positive propaganda. I had seen the Justice League fight pollution and promote ecology in the comics, and it had hit a sour note with me. It’s not that I don’t believe in the causes, I do, it’s just I’m very against being fed a message in lieu of a story or characterization. I saw that hand at work in “The Lorax.” The bottom line is I don’t mind being educated while I’m entertained – I just don’t want to be preached at.
Which brings all the way back to 2012 and the movie Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. The Bride and I saw it in 3D, so we spent far far too much to get in. By my estimation, this would have been fine in just plain 2D. There’s still a message here in this expanded tale of the Lorax, but really not enough to annoy me. Trust me, it’s still there, but nothing like Lou Dobbs and other conservatives have exclaimed (and did I read right, did they call “The Lorax” a novel?). It is clear, not at all subtle, but not overbearing either.
Instead I got to enjoy the fun relationship between Ted (Zac Effron) and Audrey (Taylor Swift), watching Ted escape the city in interesting ways, and hearing the moral yet endearing story of The Once-ler (Ed Helms) and the appropriately annoying (here at least) Danny DeVito in the title role. There is also the predictable role for Betty White. No offense, honey, I love ya, but it’s getting old. There were a few pointless scenes, like the chase at the end with the seed. I almost wanted to yell at the screen, “Give it to Wall-E, he’ll keep it safe!”
All in all though, it was good, and non-offensive. Add a fun original soundtrack (no excuses for only two nominees in the Best Song category at next year’s Oscars) and you have yourself an entertaining hit movie. I don’t have a good record with Seuss properties turned into films (note the Grinch and Horton), but this one’s a winner.
Astro Boy ~ I guess I should have known better with this 2009 updating of the 1960s black and white cartoon beloved from my youth. And it’s a long way past the evolution of the animation too. The story seems wrong. The origin of Astro Boy is fairly intact, but it has the feel and the stench of both A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and Wall-E when neither is really appropriate. It even has stronger ties to Pinocchio. Astro Boy is Astro Boy, let it be what it is, ya know?
The voice of Nicholas Cage as Dr. Tenma screams first and foremost as wrong. Wrong not just because it’s obvious that it’s him and his voice is inappropriate for the part, but because he displays little emotion in a role fraught with tragedy. It’s like he is reading words, not filling an image with his live personality. His ‘performance’ is a travesty.
The film also suffers from what most superhero movies of the past four decades do – the mandatory origin. Why can’t we just accept that this character exists, and then tell a good story? Did Indiana Jones have an origin? Did Jack Ryan? And even though I looove the recent film, did the crew of the Starship Enterprise? The movie is always half over, sometimes more, by the time we see our hero in his final hero form. It annoys me.
And speaking of hero form – why does Astro Boy have to be so politically correct and wear a shirt? Sorry, folks, but product recognition, in this case, character recognition, dictates that the product is recognizable to its fans. Astro Boy is topless. Deal with it. What’s next? A leisure suit for Tarzan? A mask and cape for Jason Bourne? Again, let Astro Boy be Astro Boy.
I waited for the DVD, even though I was very excited when I first heard they were making this. The first preview I saw had Nicholas Cage’s toneless deadpan voice, the shirted Astro Boy and a tender moment with a teenage girl, and it just turned me off. Now don’t get me wrong. This movie is not bad, it’s really quite good, great for the kids, and recommended so – but what it isn’t is a satisfying version of Astro Boy. Rent the DVDs of the original series – even higher recommendation.
Movies not from 2008, but I saw for the first time this year and loved: Déjà Vu, Last Holiday, Man of the Century, Girl 27, Crash (2004), Shoot ‘Em Up, and the absolutely brilliant The Man from Earth.
The best things from the internet in 2008:
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Stephen King’s “N,” Watchmen Motion Comics, BloodRayne A Fan Film, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips podcast, Derrick Ferguson and Thomas Deja’s Better in the Dark podcast and The Writing Show podcast.
The best comic books of 2008:
Jonah Hex, Trinity by Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley, Geoff Johns’ Action Comics, Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s Fantastic Four, Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman, Lone Ranger, Countdown to Mystery, Brave and the Bold, Joe Casey’s Godland, and Garth Ennis’ brilliant revival of British space hero Dan Dare.
The best music videos of 2008 in my opinion:
WALL-E ~ “Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth Class,” Wall-E (pronounced Wally) for short, is a love story and a tale of courage. Writer/director Andrew Stanton originally visualized this Disney/Pixar flick as “What if mankind evacuated Earth and forgot to turn off the last remaining robot?” The story expands from there.
Left behind to clean up mankind’s ecological mess while the human race goes off into space, Wall-E soon finds himself alone in this endeavor. When a robot probe, the super-slick EVE model, lands to explore Earth, clunky trash compacter Wall-E falls in love. Eve finds proof of life and returns to space with Wall-E in tow. The plant she finds leads the remaining humans, made fat and lazy by a life waited on by robots, to believe it’s time to come back home.
There are moments when Wall-E could have been as preachy as the early 1970s eco-scifi flicks like Soylent Green or Planet of the Apes but it rarely strays in that direction. Of course the accusative finger of Corporate America isn’t hard to see in Buy ‘n Large but it’s a point not hammered home like it could have been. In the end all is right and everyone lives happily ever after – a nice change of pace from most ecological disaster movies.
It’s worth noting that the first hour of the flick is without dialogue, an achievement worthy of praise in this day and age. With an economy of lines, Jeff Garlin is wonderful as the Captain and Fred Willard is surprisingly good as one of Pixar’s first live-action actors.
Speaking of Pixar, there are tons of great cameos from previous films among Wall-E’s junk collection and among the debris littering Earth. And don’t miss the cartoon before the feature. “Presto” is one of Pixar’s best. All in all, a pleasant family experience.