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'Wall-E': some of Disney's most perfect minutes

Posted: Thursday, November 20, 2008

'Wall-E'

Really, does it matter? Will this paragraph really douse or ignite your present desire to see or skip what already is and probably will remain 2008's most critically acclaimed film? Here's hoping not, because nothing you'll read here reads any different than the mountain of praise you've read elsewhere. Yes, Pixar's latest is quaking with irony - a Disney film that, between the lines, warns of the dangers of commercial excess and mass market indifference. But you can let this message mostly slide off your back if you wish, because while "Wall-E" doesn't cower behind ambiguity, it also never crams ideology down your throat. Said ideology never stood a chance anyway. Outside of a few fleeting bits of ambiance, the first 39 minutes of "Wall-E" - all of them devoted to our title character, his cockroach buddy and the invading robot that fascinates him into a trance - come completely free of fluent dialogue, and they're 39 of the most perfect minutes any Disney movie has ever strung together. That creates an impossibly tall order for the second half, which can't possibly sustain the same level of magic while also guiding the story to a proper landing. Fortunately, it falls short in pretty superb fashion, and no amount of story reconciliation, message moments or irony can prevent "Wall-E" from keeping that magic alive all the way to the end.

'Tropic Thunder: 2-Disc Director's Cut'

The best defense of a good offense? Make us laugh, even if an eye roll, head shake or full-blown groan sometimes invariably tags along. It doesn't hurt, either, to do something completely out there and just nail it. So that's two big points for "Tropic Thunder," a wildly offensive but relentlessly funny film about a cast of war movie actors (Robert Downey Jr., Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Brandon T. Jackson and Jay Baruchel) who accidentally find themselves entrenched in a real war. Numerous opportunities abound for "Thunder" to take the joke too far or let it spin out of control. International incidents and lost-in-translation miscommunications are predictably rampant, and any Hollywood movie that plays around with Hollywood in-jokes as much as this one does is asking for trouble. But any time "Thunder" threatens to cave to cuteness or formula, it pops open a new can of worms and unloads a tasteless but acutely funny torrent of dialogue, social commentary and/or unapologetically ridiculous parody. Instinct might tell you to feel bad for being so amused, but "Thunder" always slips in a wink to remind you that yes, it knows what it's doing, it knows it's wrong, and it's OK to laugh because we're all in on the joke together.

'Priceless'

Don't believe your bosses: It really does pay to sleep on the job. Just ask Jean (Gad Elmaleh), who fell asleep in the hotel bar he was tending, only to wake in the view of gold-digging Irene (Audrey Tautou), who assumed he was someone else and gave him a night to remember as result. Now, a year after that fleeting moment, Irene is back at the hotel, and there's no way it can be this easy the second time around, can it? Hey, find out for yourself. "Priceless" is full of surprises large and small, in no small part because it's a comedy about misunderstandings that doesn't play host to the usual cliches you find in comedies about misunderstandings.



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