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)

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is the newest big name on the Piston Cup circuit, poised to be the first rookie to win the Crown and in so doing take over for the retiring champ. He has just five days to get to California to take part in a three-way winner-take-all race to determine the new champ, but after getting stuck in small town America, he finds the time to slow down and discover what life is really all about.

The latest film from Pixar Animation, “Cars” tries to tap into a remember the good old days of small town America nostalgia that goes back at least to Preston Sturges. More often than not that type of film, in a modern context, has a tendency towards the banal, and “Cars” is no exception. It’s not as funny or engaging as some of the studio’s other films have been, and it’s hard to escape the feeling that this has all been done before.

The animation is top notch, particularly the racing scenes, with a lot of attention paid to how real race cars move around the track, and their character animation is still very effective. Cars tend to be very easy to anthropomorphize, but it’s still amazing how much character they’re able to squeeze into them, though they often go for the easy archetype (a 60s VW Bus is an aging hippy, etc.).

The rest of it’s not quite as good. On top of the stock sports-film story they’ve added a dissertation about the loss of small town America and the corresponding loss of humanity (particularly in the big city) as people have become so intent on getting where they’re going as fast as possible they’ve lost sight of the important things in life. Which is true to a point, but the answer to that problem is probably not to try and go back to ‘a simpler time in life’ when things were more clear. The reality is the good old days are usually really good in hindsight and inevitably someone 50 years from now will look back on us and wish things could be more like they are today. It’s always a good idea to remember the past, today is built off of it, but to turn back to it as THE source of answers for modern life seems more like a retreat than anything else.

Granted, most of that is a bit more than what “Cars” is aiming for. It’s a nice homily to small town life – which definitely has its charms – and call for remembering our roots, but it’s done better elsewhere.