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'Wall-E' (*** 1/2)

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Posted: Friday, July 4, 2008 10:00 pm

Pixar Animation Studios first hit their stride with 1999's "Toy Story 2" and have since released some of cinema's smartest and most endearing family fare, but the company has encountered a bit of a creative snag these past couple years. While perfectly entertaining, "Cars" and "Ratatouille" lacked that certain spark of genius that initially put Pixar on the map.

Thankfully, these passable but undeniably lower-tier works have been redeemed by "WALL-E," Pixar's most recent release that easily stands as their most ambitious effort to date. Watching it, one is once again overwhelmed by that tingle of discovery, that wonderful feeling that you're seeing something entirely new and ground-breaking. This is particularly delightful because, despite a huge budget and complex visual schemes, the film tells the simplest of stories in the most quaint, unassuming manner imaginable. "WALL-E" is technically sophisticated, but at heart it's charmingly old-fashioned.

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