The film's title character, a resilient and ever-curious robot appears to be the last of his kind left on a garbage-filled and long abandoned planet earth. With his only friend, an equally sturdy and resilient cockroach, he spends his days compacting and stacking trash cubes while also collecting objects and paraphernalia from what is our now bygone civilization. In doing so, he has developed an unexpected emotional dynamic that imbues in him a loneliness, inspired especially by the romantic musical vignettes he has discovered on a VHS copy of the film Hello Dolly.
Wall-E's world is rocked both literally and figuratively by the arrival of EVE, a sleek distinctly female robot sent by the space-exiled last vestiges of humanity living on a distant starship. EVE is seeking any sign of the reemergence of organic life; Wall-E in turn seeks companionship from EVE and an emotional-physical connection in the form of the hand-holding he has witnessed in the scenes from Hello Dolly. Their romance ultimately takes them into space where they confront the overweight and overstimulated remnants of the human race who live an idyllic, albeit mindless existence and have long ago lost the heartfelt connectivity that Wall-E so desperately yearns for.
The film's hallmark is most certainly its earthbound first act, almost entirely devoid of dialog yet dense in character-driven story and emotional resonance. Though his romance with EVE takes center stage, his friendship with the unnamed cockroach is equally rich in nuance and charm. Director/writer Andrew Stanton embraced a wholly unconventional approach with the material, but it paid huge dividends. So incredibly well-realized are Wall-E, EVE and the movie's other non-human denizens, you are never at a loss to understand what they are all about. It all represents a commitment to creative integrity that continues to set Pixar well above their closest competitors.
Equally entertaining, but in an altogether different way was Presto, the new Pixar animated short that preceded Wall-E. It is a beautiful and hilarious Tex Avery-inspired cartoon that is pure fun from beginning to end.