Pixar has established a reputation as the leading exponent of animated films through 'Finding Nemo', 'Cars' and 'Ratatouille'. Their latest offering, 'WALL-E', is set to surpass all those that have preceded it.

Directed by Andrew Stanton, the man behind 'Finding Nemo', 'WALL-E' topped the box office in the US on its opening weekend and it is sure to have a similar impact on this side of the Atlantic.

The film is set 800 years in the future and 700 years after humans have left earth to escape mass pollution and the rubbish they have deposited in their major cities. They left aboard massive cruise ships run by conglomerate-turned-government Buy N Large.

With the humans gone, the only denizen is the little solar-powered robot left behind to clean up the waste. It is the job of WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter - Earth Class) to compact the rubbish and place it in piles, which after several centuries have come to resemble post-apocalyptic skyscrapers.

WALL-E goes about his daily grind in this desolate city with only a cockroach for company. On his rounds, he collects knick-knacks that the humans have left behind and his knowledge of humans comes from the detritus of their lives. These range from a Rubik's cube and cigarette lighters to an iPod and his treasured possession, an old video cassette of the 1969 musical 'Hello, Dolly!'.

WALL-E's existence is disturbed and enlivened by the arrival of EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), a futuristic probe sent back to establish if earth can still sustain life. He is smitten straight away.

To win EVE over, WALL-E gives her a small plant he has found on his rounds, only for Eve to shut down when she completes her directive to find evidence of photosynthesis. When the mothership comes to take EVE back, WALL-E is determined to stay with his new love, so he hitches a ride back to the Axiom.

WALL-E encounters morbidly obese humans who are unable to make decisions for themselves and are subjected to the mass consumerism propagated by the de-facto government of Buy N Large. Together with an ensemble of other fun robots, WALL-E tries to rescue the humans from their existence and return them to earth, but others are plotting against them.

For sci-fi fans there are nods to seminal films from the genre such as Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey', 'Star Wars' and 'Aliens' star Sigourney Weaver provides the voice for the Axiom computer. Indeed, 'WALL-E' bears a resemblance to Johnny 5 from the 'Short Circuit' films.

With little dialogue in the opening sequences, Stanton chooses to focus on movement and action rather than words, but still manages to hold your attention. Although not a laugh-a-minute, 'WALL-E' has many Chaplinesque comic moments and together with its innocent portrayal of romance, it is sure to be a hit with audiences of all ages. It was a risk in a children's movie to forego dialogue in the opening half, but Stanton pulls it off.

Such is the quality of animation, 'WALL-E' is almost a certainty to take the Best Animated Film Oscar next year.

The perfect antidote to a miserable summer.

Glenn Mason