Cars

Cast:
Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen (voice)
Larry the Cable Guy as Mater (voice)
Bonnie Hunt as Sally (voice)
Paul Newman as Doc Hudson (voice)
George Carlin as Filmore (voice)
Bob Costas as Bob Cutlass (voice)
Paul Dooley as Sarge (voice)
Katherine Helmond as Lizzie (voice)
Michael Keaton as Chick Hicks (voice)
Jenifer Lewis as Flo (voice)
Ray Magliozzi as Clunk (voice)
Tom Magliozzi as Clink (voice)
Cheech Marin as Ramone (voice)
Richard Petty as ‘The King’ Strip Weathers (voice)
Guido Quaroni as Guido (voice)
John Ratzenberger as Mack (voice)
Tony Shalhoub as Luigi (voice)
Michael Wallis as Sheriff (voice)
Darrell Waltrip as Darrell Cartrip (voice)

Summary:
“Cars” is beautifully animated and it features great jokes for kids and adults. However, the story isn’t terribly original and it drags in a few places. Still, it’s an enjoyable family film.

Story:
Lightning McQueen is a hotshot NASCAR race car. He’s a top rookie and a legitimate challenger for the Piston Cup. However, his massive ego is the only thing holding him back. Without any real friends, he throws himself totally into his fame and fortune. However, one evening when he’s en route to a big race in California, he gets left behind by his team and ends up lost in a backwater town on Route 66 named Radiator Springs.

After accidentally destroying the road through the sleepy little town, McQueen is arrested and sentenced to repairing the road. He’s minded by a rusty hick tow truck named Mater. Desperate to get out of the town and make it to his race, McQueen gets busy repairing the road. But along the way he finds something more with the town inhabitants and within himself as he slows down and finds himself pulled out of the rat race.

“Cars” is rated G.

What Worked:
While “Cars” isn’t the best film Pixar has ever made, it’s yet another solid entry into their lineup. They’ve become known for creating beautiful and funny films and this is no different. The film offers a wide variety of jokes for both kids and adults. Children will enjoy seeing Mater and McQueen going cow tipping with tractors, Mater’s hick antics, and the numerous physical gags. Adults will appreciate more subtle humor like someone yelling out “Freebird!” in the middle of a large group of cars, a scene where the line for the women’s car restroom is longer than the men’s, giant anime eyes on a Japanese car, and other such stuff. It’s little jokes like these that are spread throughout the film and make it appealing for all ages.

There are no apparent great strides in animation technology here. Where Pixar really excels is with the artistry. The background canyons resemble the Cadillac Ranch. Trails in the sky from jets look like tire tracks. There are little touches all through the film, like ‘Lightyear’ tires, that make it a rich visual experience. Some of the scenes look incredibly lifelike, then you see the big eyes on the cars and remember it’s a cartoon.

The voice casting is excellent. Owen Wilson does a fine job sounding cocky or kind as Lightning McQueen, but it’s Larry the Cable Guy that really steals the show as Mater. He’s funny and his country bumpkin routine fits in perfectly with the storyline. He even manages to sneak in a “Git er Done” line in at one point. Paul Newman is well cast as Doc Hudson, the gruff and tough judge with a secret past. Michael Keaton is also a lot of fun as Chick Hicks. He seems to be channeling Beetlejuice, but it’s very much welcome in the movie. Also listen for cameos by Bob Costas, Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mario Andretti, and Darrell Waltrip among others. NASCAR fans and car lovers are going to be in absolute heaven while watching this movie.

Be sure to watch through the credits for some hilarious additional scenes featuring John Ratzenberger. I won’t spoil the surprise, but it’s worth the price of admission to see. On a final note, stay to the very end of the credits for one final surprise.

What Didn’t Work:
“Cars” is a little bit long. It could have been about 15 minutes shorter and it would have been better. Instead we’re treated to a number of dialogue heavy ‘serious’ scenes that drag the pacing down. It doesn’t help matters that this is a story that’s been told over and over in many different forms. As a fellow reviewer said to me at the theater, this was “Doc Hollywood” with cars and that perfectly describes this movie. A more original story would have been better.

I was a tad shocked by a couple of the ‘adult’ jokes. They’re the kind of thing that passes right over the heads of kids, but adults will have no problem understanding them. In one scene McQueen walks in on Doc giving the sheriff a car colonoscopy. In another scene two female cars flash their headlights at McQueen. In another scene a car says, “Oh, Chrysler!” They weren’t exactly what I was expecting from a Pixar film.

The Bottom Line:
“Cars” is a great effort from Pixar. Adults will find it a pleasure to view along with kids and children should be well entertained. I took my 4 year old son and he sat still and watched the entire thing with rapt attention. That’s a major feat.

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