- Reviewed by: Le Apprenti
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Current Rating 8.18/10 | 61 Votes
Cars is another hit by the champion of computer-animated features Pixar Animation, and the fourth by its co-founder director John Lasseter. This finely-tuned, fun-riding flick does for auto-racing what Pixar’s preceding masterpiece The Incredibles did for comic-book superheroes. It does not just provide a near 2-hour yarn for all ages with plenty of thrills (ala racing sequences), but also takes the casual viewer into the wonderful and exotic world of automobiles and auto-racing.
What better way to jumpstart the action than with a racing sequence. Pixar style. A quick series of cross-cuts between black screen, wherein the voice of protagonist automobile Lightning McQueen (original Pixar model; voiced by Owen Wilson) psyches himself, and the image of a blur of racing cars, representing the focal of his thoughts, opens the doors to an arena-filled Dinoco 400 Piston Cup race. The elaborate and exciting racing sequence, capturing the best action in racing, maneuvering and crashing, with the excitement further revved up by the music of Sheryl Crow’s “Real Gone”, steadily narrows the players to three contenders tied at first place: the rookie McQueen, respectable veteran "The King" Strip Weathers (’70 Plymouth Superbird; voiced by Richard Petty) and dirty-playing second-placer Chick Hicks (‘80s Chevy Monte Carlo Stocker; voice by Michael Keaton).
En route to the final race in
Radiator Springs’ inhabitants include town Sheriff (‘49 Mercury Cruiser; voiced by Michael Wallis), whom McQueen engages in a car chase that causes the road damage; Cozy Cone motel operator Sally Carrera (Porsche 911; voiced by Bonnie Hunt), a one-time city dweller and McQueen’s love interest; army surplus store owner Sarge (‘42 WWII Willys MB Army Jeep, voiced by Paul Dooley), a patriotic veteran to the core; Luigi’s Casa Della Tires owner and operator Luigi (’59 Fiat 500, voiced by Tony Shalhoub), an avid fan of racing and Ferrari’s; Luigi’s assistant Guido (forklift; voiced by Guido Quaroni), a capable auto mechanic who speaks little English save for “pit stop”; Flo’s V-8 Café owner Flo (Motorama show car; voiced by Jenifer Lewis); resident hippie Fillmore (’60 VW Mini-Bus; voiced by George Carlin), an individualist and preacher of organic fuel lifestyle who complements Sarge’s strait-laced patriotism with his own anthem of Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”; country doctor Doc Hudson (’51 Hudson Hornet; voiced by Paul Newman), who sentences McQueen and whose personal history later inspires him; and firefighter Red (‘60s American LaFrance pumper fire-engine; voiced by Joe Ranft), who is a sort of a crybaby.
Cars has a few sub-plots but unlike Toy Story 2 they do not get their own spotlight while the main plot takes a backseat. Lasseter weaves them into the crux of the story. The back-story of Radiator Springs and Doc Hudson’s poignant past are detailed but yet concise without disrupting the pacing of McQueen’s journey from being self-centered and arrogant to the opposite. Racing and automobile motifs permeate into the dialogue and the ambience in virtually every scene. Humor and comedic moments are aplenty but none excessive or mind-numbly repetitive, nor do they take centerstage to the story – which in a typical Disney or Dreamworks fare is consequentially made lackluster. Some of a childish level is a requisite for the sake of Pixar’s strong juvenile demography. One that stands out like a sore thumb is the rivalry between the pit-stop crew of Chick Hicks’ and McQueen’s Luigi and Guido, which culminates with Guido acting smugly to the former party (their fenders drop in stark surprise) after changing all of McQueen’s tires in record-breaking time. Doc
Among some of Cars’ many hallmarks in animation are sharp exquisite details in character and set designs, smooth and slick movements, flawless sound editing, and breathtaking framing of story, in addition to the aforementioned racing sequence. Animation of Bessie the tar machine, and panoramic shots of freeway traffic and the landscape surrounding Radiator Springs look unbelievably lifelike. Model designs for the automobiles are spot-on likeness of their actual counterparts, as can always be expected after two Toy Story films, A Bug’s Life and Finding Nemo – the animators clearly did lots of research. The inclusion of the vintage Ford Model T for the character of Radiator Springs’ old-timer Lizzie (Katherine Helmond) is a sweet touch, a testament that nothing is too old or old-fashioned for a Pixar film. Details are authentic, as is the characterization, which in turn makes the character believable.
Another notable mention is the casting. I had reservations for Owen Wilson because of his past choices of movies roles but as Lightning McQueen he fits like a glove. There is an undercurrent of warm feelings that
Topping up the main cast are the ensemble of cameos that include radio show Car Talk’s Ray and Tom Magliozzi as Dusty and Rusty Rust-eze, owners of a rustproof company that sponsors McQueen; Mario Andretti as himself as a Ferrari; broadcast commentators Bob Costas and Darrell Waltrip as their automobile identities Bob Cutlass (Oldsmobile Cutlass) and Darrell Cartrip (’85 Buick Regal Stocker) respectively; and Jay Leno’s Jay Limo. Cars is fun, and a fun ride. A definite treat for all moviegoers.
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