WALL-E (2008, DVD)

Continuing with my review of  ‘hopeful movies’ for the new year,  this is a must-see… for your whole family.


WALL-E has re-defined for me what makes a good movie.  It doesn’t need human actors, doesn’t even need dialogues.  Its visuals are stunning and thought-provoking, and the silent scenes speak volumes. Especially the first part of the movie, I’m fascinated by how human meanings and sentiments are conveyed with almost no dialogues yet with such eloquence.  It is ironic, I know, that it takes an animated robot, or two, to bring out what is important for us humans: The need to connect, the joy of simplicity, the power of a tiny green sapling bursting with life, and love, the essence of being human.  The creators of WALL-E have invented a fresh and entertaining way to send these age-old messages back to us humans, with grace, humor, and wonderment.  Now that’s creativity.

The time is post-apocalyptic, some time in the future where Earth is no longer habitable because its junks are piled up higher than sky scrappers.  WALL-E is a robot with one directive: garbage compacting.   Earth is no man’s land now.  One ‘human remains’ that WALL-E treasures is an old video tape of “Hello Dolly”.  WALL-E plays it constantly to admire that very human act and emotion:  courtship and love.  One day, he witnesses the landing of a spacecraft, from which comes Eve, an exploratory robot.  Now WALL-E has a chance to practice what he has learned.

As Earth is no longer viable for life, humans, ever ingenious, especially when it comes to their own enjoyment and gratuitous consumerism, have branched out into space, the final frontier.  They have created for themselves a utopia in a cruise ship, perpetually holidaying in space.  Their pastime is lounging on a couch, being served by automated robots.  Due to lack of use, their limbs have shrunk while their bodies have bloated.  No matter, they only need one finger to press buttons to eat, drink, and be merry.  WALL-E’s adventures begin as he follows Eve back to this ultra high-tech space station.


But Earth is home for humans, not a cruise ship in space.  Earth is meant for us to cultivate, to nurture, and to enjoy.  So, that’s the ultimate epiphany for all these perpetual space vacationers.  Herein lies the miniscule hope, symbolized by the tiny sapling of green, that there’s still a chance to return home and set roots once again, to live and grow.  The movie ends with all the right notes without being preachy or turning into a propaganda, nor does it wake us up by scare tactics.  It leads you on a pleasant ride and brings you to its intended destination without coercion or didactics.

The DVD has some excellent special features including a couple of animated short films, deleted scenes, and many more.  But my favorite part is ‘Animation Sound Design: Building Worlds From the Sound Up”, in which the legendary sound designer Ben Burtt shares secrets of creating the sounds of WALL-E. Credited by writer/director Andrew Stanton as the genius behind WALL-E, Burtt has won Oscars for his sound effects in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones movies.

Teach your children well… while there’s still time,  that’s the underlying axiom (the name of the cruise ship) of the movie.  An animation more relevant for adults than kids. After all, who are in a better position to bring hope to the next generation other than parents themselves?

~ ~ ~ ½ Ripples

Enchanted (2007, DVD)

I consider myself a rational person.  As an armchair critic, you have to, right?  Analytical, critical, not easily moved… But when it comes to humor, I just can’t resist.  I have to admit, I tried to control myself from laughing out loud many times, and not embarrass myself among all the preschool kids and their parents in that matinee show, even though it was dark there in the theatre.

Note to myself:  get the DVD when it’s out.  And so I did.

Why am I enchanted?  First of all the movie.  It’s loaded with smart dialogues, humorous parodies, seamless fusion of animation and real characters, and an old-fashioned and yet still wise message for today.  And the cast,  sure looks like they are having the time of their life making the movie. And the Oscar nominated songs by Menken and Schwartz, with the huge conglomeration of dancers, a delightful revival of the old musicals of the heydays.

Enchanted is a classic fairy tale: An evil queen, afraid of being dethroned, tries in all her power to prevent her stepson from marrying his true love by banishing her to the real world of modern day New York City, where there are no “happily ever afters”, a punishment indeed.  While there, the fairytale maiden meets her real life prince…and so on and so forth…But, what’s not typical is that it’s being handled intelligently, thanks to an excellent script, and the talented technical support it receives.

Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey,  James Marsden, and Timothy Spall all deliver lively and very gratifying performances. Also, Susan Sarandon as the wicked Queen Narissa…I say, she’s in character.  And the then 8-year-old Rachel Covey, the cutest child star I’ve seen in movies these years. This is only her second movie, but she’s a natural, that is, she doesn’t need to act. She can just stand there and be adored.

The DVD is packed full of fun and information. We have a Carrie Underwood music video “Ever Ever After”, an additional animated story, bloopers, and director Kevin Lima commenting on the deleted scenes. I’m most fascinated by the behind the scene look at how the songs and the musical scenes are produced.  It’s fascinating to watch how choreographers have to coordinate hundreds of performers involving gymnastic troops, stilt walkers, eclectic groups of dancers and multicultural musicians in the “That’s How You Know” scene in Central Park.  I’m most impressed to find a few of them are veteran dancers who had appeared in the classic movie West Side Story (1961) and one was a chimney sweeper in Mary Poppins (1964)!  I’m thinking…Can I even get out of my bed when I’m at their age?

Great family entertainment for the Easter break coming up.  In a world of dysfunctional relationships, no wonder I am enchanted by a movie painting couples reconciled, yes right in the divorce lawyer office, and lovers united after swashbuckling adventures in the hustle and bustle of New York City. 

Just don’t remind me it’s only a fairy tale.

~ ~ ~ Ripples