Monday, December 14, 2009
WALL-E (2008): Pixar has been on a real roll in recent years, but WALL-E was a particularly remarkable achievement. This is a movie starring a barely-humanoid garbage-sorting robot with minimal vocal capacity and it manages to be more charming than all the "celebrity-voiced cute animal movies" put together. The eponymous WALL-E looks a little like Johnny 5 from Short Circuit in that he has a "head" and "arms" but tire treads instead of legs. He can't crack jokes or wax philosophically about "no disassemble" but he doesn't have to. Through pantomime and the occasional recitation of his own name, he communicates exactly what's on his mind to the audience.
WALL-E is almost two movies in one. The first is WALL-E sorting trash on our planet centuries after we high-tailed it into outer space. The second is WALL-E's encounter with a bio-seeking probe which leads him back to the robot-driven ship that initiated the search. As amazing as this sounds, laughs and tears permeate both halves of the story. While the ending may be a little too happy for the children's sake, I'll be damned if I wasn't stirred a little bit in my cold, cold heart when that musical cue from 2001: A Space Odyssey pops up during the climax.
Idiocracy (2006): Here's a movie that went criminally unnoticed in theaters, something made all the more insulting when you realize that director Mike Judge's previous feature Office Space met the same unfortunate fate. At this rate his next film will open in two theaters in North Dakota on a Tuesday night before finding a cult audience on DVD.
Idiocracy is a grand satirical comedy that shares a few traits with Woody Allen's hit Sleeper: both films center on a regular guy who wakes up in the distant future, alone in a world he barely recognizes. But while Woody awoke to an advanced society with robot butlers and orgasmatrons, Luke Wilson in Idiocracy finds himself in a world where the lowest common denominator has taken over. Famine is widespread because no one knows how to raise crops, the blockbuster of the era is an exclusively fart-driven epic called Ass and the main news source is, of course, Fox News. One wonders whether 20th Century Fox, the producers of Idiocracy, found that particular plot point offensive or good corporate synergy. Neither would surprise me.
Both Wall-E and Idiocracy take place on an Earth that has collapsed under the weight of our society's worst habits and corporate indifference to their own wicked deeds. The good news is that despite that bleak premise, both films are guaranteed to cheer you up: WALL-E for its robot love story and the eventual redemption of the human race and Idiocracy for its dead-on, hilarious take on our celebration of ignorance. Personally, I don't think an Ass-like movie is more than forty years away, tops.
This represents Part 4 in a series of 25 posts about my favorite as well as the most disappointing entertainment properties/trends of the last ten years. To Be Continued!
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