WALL•E: Whoooooaaaaaaahhh . . .
Just by watching him, we can see that WALL•E, a trash-compacting robot, loves life. Nearly toppling with excitement, he zooms around the ugly, unpeopled streets like Mickey Rooney after a pretty girl. You and I, humans, we would find nothing worth dancing about in WALL•E’s desolate, postapocalyptic, twenty-ninth-century city on a planet that humans abandoned many decades ago, its skyscrapers outtowered by stacks of garbage cubes (compliments of WALL•E)—but wait. What’s that shining round thing? WALL•E doesn’t talk much, but we watch him think, What does it do? He looks to the sky and sees another shining round thing: the sun. Hmm, wonders the solar-charged robot. WALL•E keeps the hubcap.
And here, the 2008 animated film WALL•E, without saying anything at all, has said everything: the way to survive the apocalypse (and, folks, face it, this is intel we desperately need) is to take an interest. WALL•E would have agreed with what he could have found in a scavenged copy of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, but WALL•E is no reader; reading shows you what’s inside, not outside, and WALL•E is a watcher and a listener: part binoculars, part cassette deck. In other words, he’s a moviegoer. He’s the last moviegoer on Earth.
And his VHS of Hello, Dolly! is, as far as we know, the last movie on Earth. But what for me, or his Pixar brother Anton Ego, of Ratatouille, or maybe even you, would be a fate worse than death—an eternity spent watching Barbra Streisand as Dolly on loop—is to WALL•E a world of wonder. The $25 million movie-musical flop that nearly sank Fox is this little robot’s Criterion Collection. At first you laugh. Because it’s a joke: a robot at the end of the world obsessed with Hello, Dolly! Then you watch him play along with the film, pretending that he’s in it, learning to dance, and you warm to it. You see it through his eyes. Then you watch him, watching the movie, clasp his own robot hands in the way that its singing, dancing screen humans clasp each other’s in love. Now you’re not laughing anymore. You’re glowing with wonder too—the wonder of the movie WALL•E and (okay, I admit it) the scavenged wonder of Hello, Dolly!—the wonder of the movies, full stop. There are many reasons to love WALL•E; this is why I love it.