During my time at KIRO I think I only had one extended conversation with conservative host Michael Medved, and surprisingly it was on a subject on which we both agreed, the animated children’s film Happy Feet. We both hated it.
Medved, who made his name as a movie reviewer, hated the film because of its preachy environmental message. He went on a bit about a lack of consensus on global warming, the film’s manipulative storyline and its many allegedly factual and scientific errors. I, who made my name as a purely political blogger and talker, hated the film because it had a sucky script. It was visually beautiful and all that, but it was godawful boring. It was a bad, forgettable, waste of a theater ticket and a bag of popcorn.
Well, my daughter and I just returned from an opening day matinée of Pixar’s Wall-E, and I’m afraid this instant classic is going to pose a tough dilemma for conservative critics like Medved, who are no doubt going to hate the film’s environmental, political and social message, but are going to have a tough time panning what is possibly the best feature length animated film ever.
Oh, it’s certainly not the funniest animated film ever made, or even the most entertaining; I can think of a couple of Pixar films that beat it in both categories. And while Pixar’s animation is of course stunning, the visuals are at times so bleak that it’s breathtaking beauty goes by unnoticed. Indeed, the very fact that it is animated at all often goes by unnoticed, an amazing feat for a film that features two anthropomorphized robots.
How perfect is this film? Perfect enough, I’m not ashamed to admit, that this 45-year-old cynic, sitting in a darkened theater on a Friday afternoon, had tears well up in his eyes at the sight of two robots just, well, holding hands.
Wall-E isn’t a mere cartoon, it is a work of art, a G-rated animated film that transcends the genre of G-rated animated films, and sets new standards for what is possible in the medium. It is a love story. It is a comedy. But it is also a morality tale that directly challenges the consumer culture that defines our nation, and the irresponsible environmental stewardship that threatens our planet.
Judged solely on its merits, and not its message, it is difficult to imagine anybody with a passion for cinema giving Wall-E a bad review. It will be interesting to see if critics like Medved are willing and able to rise to that daunting challenge.