The Source for Parents

Movie Reviews
by Jonathan McKee and Todd Pearage

Wall-E (11/18/2008)

Rated G

Directed by Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo and A Bug’s Life)

Starring the voices of Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, and Sigourney Weaver

Jonathan's Rating: Worth Buying

Todd's Rating: Worth Buying

Another great animated film from Disney/Pixar.

The year is 2700 and mankind has abandoned earth because it has become overrun with trash from products sold by the powerful multi-national Buy N Large corporation. One lone Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth Class or WALL-E has been left to clean up the mess. Everyday he charges his solar-powered batteries and gets to work cleaning up the global landfill. WALL-E crunches garbage into cubes and stacks them as high as skyscrapers. Occasionally, his curiosity gets the best of him and he decides to keep a few things for himself: a Rubik's Cube, a light bulb, forks and...a small plant. One day, Eve, a new sleek robot arrives on Earth and WALL-E embarks on an entirely new journey.

Jonathan’s Word: Wall- E was fun. I loved the incorporation of sixties through eighties memorabilia like the Rubik’s Cube. You’ll also see the video game Pong and excerpts of the movie Hello, Dolly! provides a great little quote from director Andrew Stanton, explaining why he used excerpts from Hello, Dolly!:
    "When I got to 'Hello, Dolly!' and I played 'Put on Your Sunday Clothes,' and that first phrase 'Out there... ' came out, it just fit musically... I finally realized, 'You know what, this song is about two guys that are just so naive, they've never left a small town, and they just wanna go out in the big city for one night and kiss a girl. That's my main character.' And then my co-writer, 'Jim Reardon', said, 'You know what, he could actually discover an old tape in the trash, and that's how he got inspired by it, and it's a great way to show that he's got a romantic slant.' So we started looking at the movie, and when I found the other song, 'It Only Takes a Moment,' and saw the two lovers holding hands, I realized, 'That's a perfect way for my main character to express the phrase 'I love you' without being able to say it.'"
Todd’s Word: It’s fun to hear behind the scenes developments on these kinds of films, seeing how they came to fruition. I think Stanton pulled it off.

Jonathan’s Word: I agree. When I heard that the new Pixar film was going to feature a Robot, virtually alone on a planet for the entire film. I thought: ZZZZZzzzzzzz. After all, maybe Will Smith can hold my attention alone in a post-apocalyptic world. But Robby the Robot? No way!

I was wrong, on several accounts….

Todd’s Word: WHAT?? YOU…WRONG???

Jonathan’s Word: Nice…

First, Wall-E easily succeeded in holding my attention. Pixar has always been brilliant, and Wall E continues that momentum. This little robot captures your heart right away. He's curious, he's resourceful and he's compassionate. I never got bored with his routine. The scriptwriters constantly created cute vignettes and new conflicts that will keep the attention of audiences of all ages. I never once looked at my watch.

Second, the majority of the film isn't just about a single robot on a planet. WALL-E's adventures will take you to new places before you ever get bored with the old ones.

Todd’s Word: I agree. When I first saw the previews I thought, “This is never going to work. How are they going to make a robot that crushes garbage and makes walls into a 90 minute movie?”

I also was wrong!

Jonathan’s Word: I’m not even going to say anything!

Todd’s Word: Nice…

Who cares if the robots don’t talk? Who cares if it’s not that HUGE mega-star cast? Who cares that there are no poop or fart jokes? WALL-E is a well made, value-filled, entertaining movie for the entire family.

Jonathan’s Word: It’s so much more than just entertaining. It’s fun, and it makes you think.

Todd’s Word: I agree. It’s clear the film makers set out to make a point…and make it they did. One of the first virtues we find in WALL-E is a good work ethic. While he has been alone all these years, without a boss or a co-worker, he never stops working. WALL-E knows what his purpose is, and he faithfully fulfills it. Likewise, even though EVE is curious about WALL-E, she too, is dedicated to her task. Once the robots hit it off, they're equally dedicated to protecting and rescuing each other from the perils that follow.

Secondly, they tackle the issue of materialism. In the film Buy ‘n Large (a Sam’s Club/Costco parody) has taken over the world. They run non-stop commercials on enormous Blade Runner-like billboards with the corporation's motto: "We Want More for You." Humanity’s over indulgence has caused Earth to be unlivable.

Laziness is another issue of the “future.” Because the humans have relied on robots to do EVERYTHING for them, they have become enormously overweight. In fact they ride around on floating, lounge chairs with a computer screen that is always on, always ready to meet their next whim. In a few scenes, some people fall off their chairs and they can’t even stand up. It’s funny…but it shouldn’t be.

Jonathan’s Word: Hilarious. I was rolling in the isles (but I was able to stand myself up afterwards, of course).

Todd’s Word: One of the last lessons learned by the humans is that they have been missing out on life. In one scene two humans, John and Mary, get bumped out of their daily routines and for a while look up from their computer screens. They touch seemingly the first time ever and later ride by a pool and exclaim, “We have a pool?!” They notice each other, the beauty of the stars, what’s happening around them and discover what they have been missing.

Jonathan’s Word: The makers of Happy Feet should learn from WALL-E. Where Happy Feet was preachy, WALL-E provided a fun balance of social commentary (about two totally different subjects mind you). When I saw Happy Feet I felt scolded and preached at. WALL-E just incorporated some humorous elements into the story that made those of us in the audience laugh at ourselves, and think at the same time.

As I walked away from the film, I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I also found myself thinking about the issues it raised subtly.

Todd’s Word: Andrew Stanton said the following in a Christianity Today interview:
    "They tell you that as a storyteller, it's vital to just stick with and be honest with your values system. The last thing I want to do is go to a movie and feel like I'm being preached at. ... I think it's more honest—and you're going to have more effect—to be truthful with the values of your characters. ... That was the case with WALL-E. The greatest commandment is to love one another, and to me, that's the ultimate purpose of living. So that was the perfect goal for the loneliest robot on Earth, to learn the greatest commandment, to learn to love."
Well said and well done. WALL-E is definitely “Theater Worthy.”

Without a doubt. This is a great film with plenty of teachable moments.

Conversation Starter
Three Simple Questions (with Answers You May Be Looking for):

  1. What are some of the messages or themes you observed in this movie?

  2. How do you suppose we—as serious Christ-followers—should react to this movie?

  3. How can we move from healthy, Bible-based opinions about this movie to actually living out those opinions?

Jonathan McKee Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, and You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

Todd Pearage Todd Pearage is a movie buff at heart, but he's not your traditional film critic. Todd is a blue collar film geek, from his job years ago at Blockbuster to his heartfelt online movie reviews. But Todd isn't just a film geek. He has worked with middle and high school students since 1991 as a youth pastor and is currently on staff at Calvary Church in Souderton, PA. Todd and his wife Lynda have three children, Brianna, Caleb and Addyson.

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