Feelgood Friday Film Club: WALL-E

Feelgood Friday Film Club: WALL-E

The latest in our series of feelgood streaming suggestions to help see you through lockdown

By the time WALL-E rolled off Pixar's assembly line of animated hits in 2008, audiences had been treated to gems ranging from the ground-breaking Toy Story and its super-duper sequel to Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. All remain high-water marks for Pixar, their vibrant visuals, wryly amusing scripts and splendid voice casts combining to spectacular effect.

However, WALL-E is a match for those earlier modern classics and then some. This bundle of brilliance from Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton begins on a barren Earth that recalls the dystopian world of 70s sci-fi Soylent Green rather than a fun futuristic adventure, and is virtually dialogue-free for nearly half an hour. Here we observe the daily routine of cute robot WALL-E (or Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class, to give him his full moniker) as he compresses cubes of junk in a sun-scoured, deserted metropolis. He's been on the job for years, as evidenced by the towers of metal and detritus standing as high as the city's abandoned skyscrapers.

So far, so bleak, but there's more to our quirky hero than the daily grind. He has a durable cockroach pal and hoards people's bric-a-brac (Rubik's Cubes, lighters, toys) in his storage-unit home where he swoons over an old video of Hello, Dolly! every evening. Then the arrival of sleek, if trigger-happy, robot EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) rocks his world. WALL-E is smitten but she's aloof and programmed to return a crucial discovery to the huge mother ship, where surviving humans have turned into blubbery couch potatoes anaesthetised to everything except rampant consumerism.

That doesn't stop WALL-E pursuing the object of his affection, but the path of true love is far from smooth, and the rusty Romeo is quickly up to his puppy-dog binocular eyes in madcap mayhem and ruthless resistance.

Sci-fi fans will spot the nods to classics like 2001 and E.T., and while WALL-E resembles a more compact version of Short Circuit's Number 5, it's Star Wars droid R2-D2 to whom he owes his charm and winning personality. Not surprising, since pioneering sound designer Ben Burtt provided the voices and beeps for both.

It goes without saying that the Oscar-winning animation is superb, but both script (courtesy of Stanton and Jim Reardon, from a story by Stanton and Pete Docter) and Thomas Newman's deft score deservedly copped nominations too. Yet what makes this slice of Pixar perfection so sweet and uplifting is watching EVE's steely heart melt as her angular admirer persists in his courtship – his space dance propelled by a fire extinguisher is an utter delight. Meanwhile, the end credits – backed by the dulcet tones of another of the film's Oscar nominees, Peter Gabriel – demonstrate that hope and optimism can spring eternal and, well, we all need that sort of tonic right now.

Available to watch on Disney+ and other streaming platforms now.

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