I've long been a champion of Pixar's animated output, and I know I'm not alone. Usually a Pixar film will make it into my top 10 for the year. But forgive me if I don't jump on the bandwagon and claim that WALL-E is among Pixar's best.
It's hard to badmouth it, because it's a cute little movie with a sweet message, and visually it's a marvel. Like most of Pixar's films, it's packed with unique images and ideas. And it certainly stretches the technical possibilities of computer animation: parts of the film practically look like live action.
So why wasn't I so over the moon about WALL-E? Well, I was surprised at how simplistic and heavy-handed its moral is, and how – while it's definitely a triumph for Stanton and his crew to get an audience to care for two cartoon robots who barely speak and who have minimally expressive features – the love story itself is woefully unoriginal. Of course, Pixar has raised audience standards for animated storytelling so high that few of even their own films may be able to meet it by now.
Stanton (who also helmed Finding Nemo) and his cowriter Pete Docter (who directed Monsters, Inc.) are the most kiddie-oriented of the senior Pixar team, so I don't blame them for producing something that, for all its artistry, is much more of a children's movie than I expected. But while I laud its innocence, and found some cleverness in its approach, I think the film lacks Pixar's characteristically sharp wit. I didn't laugh once, and I can't say I've ever not laughed during a Pixar movie.
Also, without giving anything away, I was reminded constantly of Mike Judge's live action comedy Idiocracy. Maybe it's just coincidence, but I suspect WALL-E owes a lot to that earlier film, with nods as well to 2001 and even The Matrix. Still, the visuals are gorgeous, Ben Burtt's amazing sound design work is Oscar-worthy, and it's a harmless family movie. But if you don't find yourself drawn in like you were with the rollercoaster plots of The Incredibles or Toy Story 2, don't say I didn't warn you.