Here's my full review from The American Conservative of the Pixar film:
Despite its misanthropy, the superbly crafted dystopian science fiction film "Wall∙E" will be the ninth straight movie from Pixar Animation Studios, going back to 1995's "Toy Story," to earn at least $162 million at the American box office.
"Wall∙E" is stronger on execution than originality. Writer-director Andrew Stanton ("Finding Nemo") sets loose a squatter version of the cute robot from the 1986 comedy "Short Circuit" in the dysgenic consumerist wasteland of Mike Judge's suppressed 2006 satire "Idiocracy."
ndeed, Stanton's vision of a smoggy, trash-strewn Earth resembles a big budget remake of Judge's cult classic. With its ostensibly environmentalist message, however, "Wall∙E" won't suffer the fate of Judge's politically radioactive story about the long-run consequences of low fertility among the high IQ.
In 2110, the monolithic corporate monopolist Buy 'n' Large uses the jingle "Too much garbage in your face? There's plenty of space out in space" to induce humanity to abandon the planet. All humans set sail on a luxury cruise aboard a colossal spaceship, leaving Earth temporarily to a race of trash-compactor automatons ("Waste Allocation Load Lifter ∙ Earth-class") programmed to build towering ziggurats out of cubes of compressed junk. The detritus of consumerism proves too much, though, and Earth remains a lifeless ruin.
Now, 700 years later, just one Wall∙E is still puttering along, alone except for his pet cockroach. This curious little robot brings home and carefully sorts elegiac objects that catch his fancy, such as a Rubik's Cube. The Aspergery Wall∙E can't decide whether a plastic spork belongs with his spoons or his forks, so he deposits it exactly between the two piles. His prized possession is a videotape of "Hello Dolly," which he watches repeatedly, wishing he had somebody to hold hands with.
The first half of "Wall∙E" contains almost no dialogue. This is not unprecedented in a kid's movie -- the staggeringly gorgeous 1979 hit "The Black Stallion" was similar. Stanton feels that audiences want to work for their entertainment, so he has high expectations for what they can handle. Restricting verbiage prods him to new levels of inventiveness in conveying emotion visually, in devising what his mentor, the screenwriting guru Robert McKee (played by Brian Cox in "Adaptation") calls "worlds we’ve never seen but a humanity we all recognize."
Reviewers rave over how Stanton gets us to recognize emotions in a machine. Still, although Pixar is immensely skillful, people naturally perceive personality in anything self-activated. My wife, for instance, fusses maternally over her Roomba robot vacuum cleaner, grooming it lovingly when its sprockets clog, which is often. She treats it as if he (we instantly decided Roomba is a boy) is a dutiful, though inept, family retainer.
"Wall∙E" doesn't actually peddle an environmentalist message. The real fear it plays upon is not that we'll run out of room to dump our trash outdoors. After all, Los Angeles County alone has enough cubic miles of uninhabited canyons to hold the world's trash. The 1990's media panic about a purported landfill shortage was launched by trash-hauling companies desiring higher fees. Instead, "Wall∙E" describes a more pressing modern American fear -- that we'll run out of room indoors to store all the crud we keep buying. Today's eco-mania, in contrast, is about saving the Earth through shopping -- not less often, but more fashionably.
Wall∙E's lonely vigil is interrupted when an automated spaceship touches down to unload a beautiful futuristic robot named Eve, who occasionally giggles like a Japanese schoolgirl. Her mission is to search for any signs of plant life on Earth, in the hopes that humans can then begin to recolonize the planet. She first tries to fry Wall∙E with her laser, then ignores him when she determines he's mineral not vegetable. He finally wins her approbation by handing her the only plant growing on Earth.
The movie acts out a classic nerd's fantasy -- to be left alone with cool stuff … except for a sleek girlfriend. (And if she's a Japanese robot, so much the cooler.)
Then the rocket returns to haul Eve back to the spaceliner, and the smitten Wall∙E hitches a ride. Onboard, "Wall∙E" turns into a different, more cartoonish movie, with a cruder look and a frenetically unexciting chase scene. It's still "Idiocratic," though -- in 700 years, humans have devolved into boneless wonders, obese blobs who never look up from their screens. But how much fiction is there in this science fiction?