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Wall-E (Three-Disc Special Edition + Digital Copy and BD Live) - animated DVD / family and children's DVD / Blu-ray review
WALL-E (THREE-DISC SPECIAL EDITION + DIGITAL COPY AND BD LIVE) Rated G by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 1/2 stars
Actors: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy
Director: Andrew Stanton Distributor: Walt Disney Video
DVD release: 18 November 2008 Feature runtime: 98 minutes
(3 discs)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Widescreen, Blu-ray
DVD Features: Audio tracks (English - Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX, Dolby Digital 2.0), Subtitles (English for the Hearing Impaired), "Burn E" with boards (all-new animated short w/ picture-in-picture presentation by dir. Angus MacLane), Cine-Explore w/ dir. Andrew Stanton, Geek Track (Pop-up commentary by Pixar's Geek Squad), The Axiom Arcade (Video games), 3-D set fly-throughs, "The Pixar Story" by Leslie Iwerks, "Presto" animated theatrical short, "Animation Sound Design: Building Worlds from the Sound Up," "Lots Of Bots" storybook, BnL Shorts, Making-of featurettes, Deleted scenes

In the distant future, our planet has been neglected - damaged, perhaps beyond repair. Dust storms rage, unobstructed by trees or any other plant life. The oceans have long since dried up, and huge hulls of ships sit upon their keels. The Earth is an abandoned landfill, the victim of rabid, senseless consumerism.

But something stirs: amid all this devastation, a solitary robot diligently works to organize the piles of discarded excess. He rolls along on his treads, humming to himself. He scoops up the garbage, smashes it into cubes (but keeps a few treasures for himself). He stacks the cubes of compacted garbage into towers tall enough to rival the nearby empty skyscrapers. His name is WALL-E, an acronym for Waste Allocation Load-Lifter Earth-Class. As he rolls along, he passes others of his kind along the way, none of them functional. He uses his fallen brothers for spare parts.

One fateful day, a sleek white ship lands on Earth and deploys a probe robot. This elegant being with a seamless white tapered body flies as gracefully through the air as a penguin swims through the water. Wall-E follows her, bewitched. When she first notices Wall-e, she fires a devastating laser blast at him. But, through a combination of patience, diligence and extreme caution, he eventually gains her trust. Her name is Eve (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator). She's on Earth looking for signs of plant life. When Wall-E shows her a plant he's discovered and kept as a treasure, her primary programming kicks in: she acquires the plant and shuts down, awaiting the mother ship. Though Eve is still there, Wall-E is alone again, so soon after falling for her.

When the mother ship comes to take Eve away, Wall-E follows, clinging to the outside of the ship. On the way he sees the wonders of the gorgeous universe, a complete contrast from the environment he's left behind (this is an amazing visual experience, especially on Blu-ray). The mother ship takes the stowaway Wall-E and Eve to a larger ship (a grandmother ship, I suppose) called the Axiom.

It's sort of a leisure ship filled with squishy, pampered humans who glide around on their futuristic chaise lounges, entertained by their video screens, blind to those around them. They sip their liquified meals as their bones grow weaker and their intellect shrinks. Not the kind of evolution a species would hope for. These are the descendants of the humans who left the Earth they destroyed 700 years ago. Wall-E and robots like him were left behind to straighten things out while the humans relaxed and consumed and waited for the Earth to return to life.

Several things make Wall-E a wonderful film. Most robot communication is done without much verbal communication. It's done with a look, a gesture, a sigh. It's really amazing, and I'm betting it hasn't been done this well since the age of the silent film. Another unique aspect is the camera work. Yes, it's a computer-animated film; the cameras are virtual and usually perform flawless focus, pan, tilt, dolly. What is so much different here is that they get sloppy with the focus. In one scene in a supermarket, Wall-E causes a huge commotion and is chased down by a herd of shopping carts. The camera follows the action, but focus falters a bit, and Eve wanders into frame, out of focus in the foreground. Not unexpected in a live-action film, but it hasn't happened to this point in a CGI film.

Pixar does a bang-up job of providing extra features as well. The team discuss in-depth the thought processes and technical processes they explored to give the film its feel. Director Andrew Stanton, Ben Burtt (Wall-E's voice) and others share their views and keep it interesting, providing deleted scenes, the evolution of the film, and more. These welcome extras may not interest all children (though it does my boy), but adults will love it as it is made plain the special culture at Pixar and how it is they are able to make such wonderful films time after time.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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