- John Lasseter
- Joe Ranft
- Reviewed by
- José Ruiloba a.k.a. Morris
- Review date
- Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is a rookie race car who has everything going for him, that is, until his arrogance makes him tie in the race for the Piston Cup. That sets up another race in California to decide the winner, but in the way Lightning gets lost and ends up in Route 66, where he stumbles upon a forgotten town, Radiator Springs, where he is detained and forced by Doc Hudson (voice of Paul Newman) to stay and fix the railroad he destroyed upon his arrival. He soon makes a friend out of Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy) and is instantly smitten by Sally (voice of Bonnie Hunt), a beautiful Porsche, but has to work hard to gain the confidence of the local cars.
Let me start with the “bad”. Cars is arguably the weakest of all Pixar movies. If you look back at the work they’ve done, perhaps it is A Bug's Life (1998) which hasn’t transcended as much as their other efforts, most of which are already classics. I think Cars just gave competition to that movie. Time will only tell, but I would still prefer to spend some time with those bugs than with these cars, and that tells you something. But don’t get me wrong, because the movie is very good, it’s just not Pixar at its best, but that’s an insane standard so it’s understandable that it can’t be reached every time.
As it is, Cars is somehow a unique movie in its intentions: it is aimed at children yet it might be adults who appreciate it best. I don’t say this as a fact, but I got that feeling. To start off, the movie is too long for this type of animation. It is also too slow and not for impatient viewers. And it has a nostalgic vibe that will go over most children’s head. That said, there’s a lot of silly (not cheap) humor, most of which comes from the character of Mater. And you can smell right from the very first sequence that the movie will end with a couple of nice messages that everybody can appreciate.
Truth is, I liked the characters. I liked the arc of Lightning’s story. I liked his interaction with both Sally and Doc Hudson. They manage to form real bonds, and some of the best scenes involve a combination of these three on-screen. These pairings are also an excuse for some of the most breathtaking sequences in animation history, such as the ride that Lightning and Sally take through the mountains, the retrospective to good-old times or when Lightning witnesses Doc racing.
That takes me to one very crucial aspect of the movie: the quality of the animation. If you thought Pixar couldn’t raise the bar any higher you were wrong. Cars is visually stunning, the best work they’ve done in this regard; truly a work of art. The production design and creativity that went into creating this world of cars is also hugely imaginative. There are no humans in this world, only cars. Even animals are represented this way, such as flies and cows (loved them!). The movie is filled with clever visual gimmicks and it’s a lot of fun to keep discovering them.
The ending is predictable, but directors John Lasseter and Joe Ranft manage to imprint some restraint to it and make it work so well that you may be fighting back tears when you get to it. Cars definitely ends on a very high note.
Voice work is good overall. I almost always hate Owen Wilson’s trademark way of talking, but his voice somehow suits Lightning, and he makes him come to life. Bonnie Hunt leaves behind her sarcastic self and delivers an unrecognizable and very effective performance. Larry the Cable Guy is not always understandable, but he’s a riot! Yet the real pleasure comes in hearing Paul Newman’s voice as the town’s solitary chief. A true legend... Fantastic work. Michael Keaton, Cheech Marin, Tony Shalhoub, George Carlin, Jeremy Piven and many real-life racers also lend their voices.
“Tractors are so dumb.”
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