Sunday, July 13, 2008

What a Coincidence, I was in Hello, Dolly in HS!

Watched Wall-E today, and I thought it was brilliant. It started with a "short feature," so rare today that I heard a couple of kids ask if it was a commercial. The movie begins with strains of "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" from the Hello, Dolly! movie recording with a young Michael Crawford as Cornelius Hackl: Way out there beyond this hick town, Barnaby, There's a slick town, Barnaby! The camera zeroes in on what we realize is a dystopic future earth, abandoned by its inhabitants in favor of spaceships owned and operated by BuyNLarge.

Wall-E is a lone robot who collects, compacts and stacks trash, as he has done for 7000 years, all that remains of BuyNLarge's effort to make the earth re-inhabitable some day. His only companions are a cockroach and an assortment of strange bits and pieces he has collected over time (the spork is funny), strangest of all a VHS tape of Hello, Dolly! I played the Walter Matthau role, Horace Vandergelder, my senior year in high school, so you can consider me an expert (I did manage not to sing along out loud while sitting in the theatre).

The plot that develops is mainly a robot love story, all done with beeps and whirrs from the guy that did the sound effects for Star Wars--R2D2, Chewbacca, et al. The movie is an investigation of the nature of human emotion using technology as stand-in--a neat trick first done with Brent Spiner's Data character in ST:TNG.

Nitpick: The spaceship has giant Wall-A type compactors, to compact trash before it is jettisoned. No self-sustaining spaceship jettisons anything--it all gets recycled, even the bodies of dead passengers. Now I know it's just a movie, and a cartoon at that, but they worked pretty hard to get this movie right; it would have been a trivial matter to get everything they needed in that scene without foolishly tossing precious resources overboard. Also, the water stays in the pool, on the Ledo deck.

Still, it's a very well-done piece: the animation uses techniques that give it, especially the part on planet earth, an eerie realism; the main storyline is easily grasped by a child, but invites deeper ruminations on sentience and humanity as well as Thomas Malthus and apocalypse; the sci-fi is decent; and, finally, the detailed technical work--acting, sound--is peerless. Oh, and there was a short.

No comments: