Hello, Dolly! and the future of humanity

Walking into the theater to see the newest Pixar/Disney transplant, WALL-E, I expected to see a friendly tale of a quirky robot. I was pleasantly surprised and delighted when before my very eyes unfolded a social commentary as relevant to today as the campaign is long.

For those of you who think that WALL-E is a kid's film you may find yourself eating your words. It is great to see Disney using it's power for good rather than evil. Some of you may remember some of the social faux pas in the Disney closet: the racist movie we don't talk about, Song of the South, the subtle anti-Arab lyrics in the song "Arabian Nights" of Aladdin, and of course the good old belief that a woman should lie down and wait for her prince to come and rescue her from her dragon guarded castle in order to achieve happiness.

The jury is still out on whether Disney has gotten the PC bug or the Disney-Pixar marriage has given the Disney folk a younger more open outlook on the world. One thing is for sure, if their movies keep moving in a WALL-E direction then I will have no qualms with raising kids in the arms of the mouse.

The rumors you have heard about a lack of dialogue in WALL-E are true, the first forty five minutes are a sobering dialogue-less view into Earth 700 years after humans have left. The genius behind the WALL-E sound is the legendary Ben Burtt, the man responsible for the trademark sound effects of Star Wars.The sound effects in the film greatly make up for the lack of dialogue.

More important than sound or even lovable robots is the state of Earth and its former inhabitants, us. The Earth it seems has become our worst nightmare come to life, mountains of waste which tower over today's skyscrapers, holographic images of superfluous products of consumerism gone extreme, and a single international mega-corporation dominating the market on Earth and beyond. As the movie continued it became apparent that Pixar writer and director Andrew Stanton could very well have been listening to conversations between progressives across the country.

In the world of WALL-E humans have become dependent on liquid meals and their hover chairs, so much that they have all become obese. They also seem to have a problem disconnecting themselves from their holographic entertainment and servant bots, resulting in the loss of the ability to walk.

I fully recommend WALL-E for all who are young at heart and concerned about the future of humanity and our precious planet. Plus if you're trying to sell a "progressive" idea to the masses it doesn't hurt to have a unique robot on your side who is obsessed with Hello, Dolly!

I second your remarks on

I second your remarks on Wall-E, and add a few observations of my own.

Not only is Wall-E not just for kids, but (along the lines of a recent Frank Rich piece), it would be very wrong if this work's silent plea - for the world's grown-ups to start acting their age - were heard only by those too young to vote!

While both A.I, and Wall-E convey powerful messages about climate change and inter-generational injustice in layers of metaphor, it's remarkable how well Wall-E's Andy Stanton succeeded in delivering the full punch of his message medicine, in an artistic vehicle that's still remarkably sweet and easy to digest.

Like the lyrics of one of the Hello Dolly tunes he excerpts, "it only takes a moment" after Wall-E begins for its emotional dissonance - the conflicting chords of loss and hope - to hit home. At first, even folks like me, who'd never seen Hello Dolly before, are struck by the mis-match between the ancient optimism wrapped in the bouncy song, "Put on your Sunday clothes," and the visual desolation that seems to mock that optimism, and to shame long-gone generations shown in that scratchy video for spending too much time having fun to preserve their planet.

Spoiler alert for those who haven't seen Wall-E: Like most good Biblical prophecy, Wall-E is careful and wise to end its cautionary tale on an up-beat note ... but only to a point: We're not allowed to walk away believing that all the damage already done to our species, landscapes and climate, is totally reversible. But Stanton seems to assure us that, if there's reason for hope in the chance to rebuild a fictional world so much more wounded than our own, then we have no excuse to let the pain of emerging ecological threats deter us from doing whatever we can to turn the tide as best we can.

The notion that one mere green sprig in a boot might prompt our remote descendants to shake off the paralysis of will borne of their losses, is sort of an up-date of the famous moment in "It's a Wonderful Life," when Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey tucks Zuzu's lost petals into his pocket, so she can take joy focusing on the flower that remains, rather than moping over the parts that are gone.

Beyond all this, and partly in response to Wall-E, I finally got around to renting Hello Dolly, and I find that even the scenes and themes NOT excerpted in Wall-E, resonate with Stanton's core message. A bit like Wall-E's Buy'N'Large mega-corporation, Horace Vandergelder seemed almost robotically driven during much of Hello Dolly, to accumulate physical wealth, even when it added nothing to his happiness. But - via a comedic plot in which folks of opposite social classes learn to share love - Vandergelder comes around to the progressive wisdom of Dolly's late husband, Ephraim, that money is like manure: not of much use, unless it's spread around to encourage new things to grow!

Wall-E gets this message across both at a simple, visual level that tots can grasp - Buy'N'Large's once-captive population, learning for the first time to enjoy planting new seeds in ordinary soil - AND ALSO at a level of economic and social policy that should hit home with parents in the audience: At least some adults must walk out of Wall-E with a gut sense that our economy needs to be adjusted, so that the ways we acquire and use man's money - and G-d's resources - at least achieve the basic goal of "encouraging new living things to grow" - and of course, in the process, of preserving the life we already have!

(... And beyond all the heavy philosophical and policy freight, both Wall-E and Hello Dolly were lots of fun to watch! )