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)

Pixar’s stunningly beautiful “Cars” shows off the latest in the company’s ever-expanding expertise in the realm of digital animation. If you can get past that the story is basically the same as the 1991 Michael J Fox ‘vehicle’ “Doc Hollywood” – as portrayed by the Chevron cars – it should make for an enjoyable trip to the movies for all ages.

Lightning McQueen is a hotshot rookie race car with his mind set on a new, big time sponsor in the form of oil company Dinoco. While en route to the Piston Cup Championship in California, Lightning hits a detour on Route 66 where he makes a pit stop in the sleepy town of Radiator Springs. During his stay, he gets to know a few of the town’s eccentric characters, including Sally, a 2002 Porsche, Doc Hudson, a 1951 Hudson Hornet with a mysterious past, and Mater, a rusty, trusty tow truck. The quirky town vehicles teach McQueen that there are more important things than trophies, fame, and sponsorship.

“Cars” is Rated G.

What Worked:
First things first, “Cars” looks beautiful. Pixar has certainly upped their game since 2003’s “Finding Nemo,” taking advantage of the latest digital animation technology to create the scenic vistas that dot the famed Route 66 in the movie. The light bouncing off the cars, the dirt flying as wheels spin out and the massive canyon waterfall are especially well done. The ‘look’ of the movie alone is almost worth the price of admission. It makes me eager to see what advances the company has at its disposal as it makes “Ratatouille,” “Toy Story 3” or whatever is next on their plate.

The voice cast is a solid one. While I wasn’t too keen on Wilson as McQueen in the trailers, he does a fine job in the feature. It was also a nice touch to see Nascar veterans like Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip voicing their respective race cars. The true stand out is Larry the Cable Guy. His slow-witted tow truck Mater is the appointed comic relief of the movie and he eats it up. Michael Keaton also gets good mileage out of his Chick Hicks, the dirty driving rival of young McQueen. The Italian tire shop duo also steals a few scenes.

The soundtrack is also very good – with reworked pop hits like Tom Cochrane’s Life is a Highway (faithfully redone – and perhaps unnecessarily – by Rascal Flatts) and new tunes like Sheryl Crow’s Real Gone. John Mayer’s version of Route 66 also plays well.

What Didn’t Work:
I have two main gripes with “Cars.” First, it’s too long. At just under two hours, it could have likely been trimmed down by at least 15 minutes. Some of the scenes – like the beginning of Lightning’s trip to California – run long and come off more like the studio showing off its abilities. Also, Lightning’s stay in Radiator Springs could probably have been tightened up a bit.

Second, the ‘love’ story between Lightning and Sally is weak, but then again – they’re CARS! It is hard enough for two actors on screen to form good chemistry, much less when there are two digital automobiles trying to express feelings for one another.

The last point that I think will drag “Cars” down a bit is the fact that these ARE cars… not toys, bugs, monsters or fish, but cars. Moviegoers can be sold that bugs might talk to one another, or fish – or that some fantastical monster world exists, but dealing the world of unemotional dumb iron loses some of the cute factor that the other Pixar movies had. One might wonder what happens with the toys in a little boy’s room when no one is around, but how many people can say the same for the Beamer in their garage in the middle of the night? The use of automobiles is a tougher fantasy sell. It might hurt the film a little, but Pixar knows the rabid NASCAR fans can more than offset any dip that may cause.

In the end, “Cars” is good fun. Not the best Pixar effort, but even a mediocre Pixar movie is better than most films at the Cineplex. It should do well at the box office. And by all means, keep your seats as the credit role on this one… hands down the biggest laugh in the film actually occurs after it’s done!

Box Office

Weekend: Nov. 15, 2018, Nov. 18, 2018

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