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Heroes of the Zeroes: WALL-E

by on November 24, 2010

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

Rated G

Refuse rules on Earth — a dirt empire abandoned 700 years ago by humans and now by a lone caretaker: WALL-E.

He’s the only Waste Allocation Load Lifter-Earth class robot that hasn’t broken down — diligently compacting trash, taking home tchotchkes that captivate him, powering down to “Hello, Dolly!” and dreaming, like a cybernetic Cornelius Hackl, of a world outside of Yonkers.

In “WALL-E,” what this cross between E.T., a turtle and “Short Circuit’s” Johnny 5 finds sure is way out there beyond this hick town. Even though it swapped slight subversion for something more saccharine, “WALL-E” challenged conventional thoughts on hoarding and environmental stewardship.

It’s also as creative, compassionate and wondrous as anything Pixar has mounted — a balletic, gentle robot-romance spin on “Pinocchio” (with a Jiminy Cockroach) and a hero who’s like Buster Keaton v. 73.0.

With esteemed live-action cinematographer Roger Deakins as a visual consultant, “WALL-E’s” camera moves like a real-life apparatus. And its introductory act has as much of a silent-film feel as any 21st-century production can — with only a handful of human voices.

When WALL-E finds vegetation, it becomes his inroad to woo shiny robot Eve — for which the plant is a mission that takes them both into space. Funny that 2008’s most resonant, least arbitrary romance would be created in a computer.

Some found ecological undertones too scolding. But the question of what truly happens to trash is a nice undertone — never overshadowing the endlessly renewable entertainment of “WALL-E’s” plucky protagonist and carefully, comically choreographed physical humor.

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