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Cars (A Movie Review)

Updated: Feb 4, 2022



CARS (2006)

Featuring the voices of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Keaton, Cheech Marin, Tony Shalhoub, Guido Quaroni, Jenifer Lewis, Paul Dooley, Michael Wallis, George Carlin, Katherine Helmond, John Ratzenberger, Joe Ranft, Richard Petty, Jeremy Piven, Bob Costas, Darrell Waltrip, Richard Kind, Jay Leno and Edie McClurg.

Screenplay by Dan Fogleman, Joe Ranft, Kiel Murray, Phil Lorin, Jorgen Klubien and John Lasseter.

Directed by John Lasseter.

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.  116 minutes.  Rated G.

Pixar is the wave of the future when in comes to animation.  Disney, the legendary studio which pretty much created itself on paint and board animation has recently shuttered their hand-drawn animation division.  It’s all done with computers now.

It’s a shame, because while they can do some amazing things with this sort of animation — in fact this movie proves this even more than any previous film — the animation feels a little soulless.  While I respect all of the films that Pixar makes (and some of the films by their competitors), it’s rare that I really love them in the same way that I did things like Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin.

Cars is pretty much the same boat.  I liked a lot of it.  I was very impressed by the technical work that was done.  Can’t say I was blown away by it though.

Actually, Cars plays a weird place in the Pixar canon.  While it is the most proficiently formed vision of the studio’s artistry, it is also the one that has the most clichéd storyline.  It has some cool ideas and fun characters and a refreshingly nostalgic bent for such a state-of-the-art film.  This has always been Pixar’s strongest point to me, they recognize the importance of childhood symbols like toys and superheroes and boom towns.

However, it takes a while for Cars to get to this mindset, and the parts leading up to it are rather underwhelming.  Owen Wilson plays the voice of a rookie race car named Lightning McQueen (just the fact that the makers named the car McQueen is a nice little nod) who is taking the racing world by storm.  McQueen is a bit full of himself and thinks he is better than a lot of the other cars because he is a star.  In a race he comes out in a three-way tie with an evil car named Chips (Michael Keaton) and the legendary retiring car (voice by real racer Richard Petty).  Honestly, all of the race footage is well done but ultimately pretty dull.

The movie starts coming together when McQueen is driving across country and gets stranded in a small country town off of old Route 66.  Here he meets the old town doc (Paul Newman), the big city lawyer who has moved to get away from the rat race (Bonnie Hunt), the redneck towtruck (Larry the Cable Guy) and all of the other eccentrics in the tiny town of Carburetor Springs.

By being with these normal people and living an everyday life, Lightning McQueen becomes a better teammate and a better car.  It’s not exactly an original storyline and the movie occasionally drags, but in the long run Cars works well.

Kids will love Cars and adults will probably get caught up in it too, even though they will know they are being shamelessly manipulated. (6/06)

Ken Sharp

Copyright ©2006 All rights reserved. Posted: June 10, 2006.

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