This film's been getting a lot of praise for its interesting style of animation – taking the age-old technique of rotoscoping (in which live action film is traced over, frame by frame; Ralph Bakshi made much use of this in the 1970s) and using computers to both update and accelerate the process so that a small group of people can make an animated feature without spending years or millions of dollars.
However, writer/director Linklater deserves little of the credit for the film's intriguing look. That honor goes to art director Bob Sabiston, who not only wrote the software behind the animation, but also chose the film's beautiful color palette and painterly look. (Most of the actual animation was done by untrained amateurs in Linklater's native Austin, Texas.)
It's arguable that if Waking Life hadn't been altered from its live action source material, it might never have been released, much less received so much praise. Why? Because it's boring. There's no story, just a string of conversations between random people (some famous, most not) spouting their unoriginal philosophies about dream theory and free will – most often to the film's central character, Wiley Wiggins, who is stuck in a dream state and can only drift from one long-winded scene to the next. The film would have been more effective and enjoyable cut up into little chunks spliced between TV shows or movies on cable; taken in one big feature-length gulp, it's just a butt-acher. Like being at a party and having to listen to a couple of potheads dither on about the meaning of life.