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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 11.11%
Just Average: 27.35%
Pretty Crappy: 24.79%
Sucks: 2.56%

9 reviews, 63 user ratings

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by David Cornelius

"It's Pixar. 'Nuff said."
5 stars

By now it has become so widely known as to just how good Pixar is at doing what they do that the company’s name has become film critic shorthand for the very possible best in animated filmmaking. Countless reviews of other CG cartoons include the phrase “it’s no Pixar,” or “it’s almost as good as Pixar,” or maybe “Pixar did it better.”

Their secret is hard to pin down - they focus on storytelling, but that is not all; they set the bar for remarkable animation, but that is not all. I believe their success comes from their goals: while other studios are busy making movies that will be popular for the season, Pixar aims to make movies that will be remembered forever. Much like how Disney’s early works are still enjoyed by children to this day, Pixar’s titles will undoubtedly be passed on from generation to generation in the same manner, while most of the studio’s rivals’ efforts will have been forgotten beyond the realm of nostalgia. (Indeed, Pixar’s first feature, “Toy Story,” at a mere 12 years old, is already hailed as a timeless classic.)

“Cars” is the animation studio’s seventh film and their last one made before merging completely with Disney. (Before, Disney would release Pixar’s movies but have no hand in making them.) It is telling that even if it is, as some say, the weakest of their seven, it is still a most exceptional work, funny and warm and beautiful and awe-inspiring and nothing short of absolutely wonderful. I spent the entire running time captivated by this gem of a movie.

In the world of “Cars,” there are no people. In fact, there are no animals at all. Nothing but cars (and trucks, and SUVs, and tractors…) rule this world. Even the bugs are, well, Bugs, of the Volkswagen variety.

In such a world, auto racing would naturally be the sport of kings. And so we meet Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), a candy apple red speedster and rookie star of the racing circuit. His success has led to cockiness, and his cockiness leads him to tie, not win, in the final race of the season. And so a tie-breaker race is scheduled. But on the way there, Lightning gets stuck in Radiator Springs, a dusty, forgotten town along legendary Route 66.

The plot the takes familiar turns - Lightning causes trouble with the town folk (town cars?), he falls for a lovely Porsche (Bonnie Hunt), he slowly befriends his new quirky neighbors, he eventually must decide between the fast-paced lifestyle of a racing star or the simpler life of his new small town. What I’ve always found fascinating about Pixar is how they manage to incorporate well-worn material yet never make it feel tired or hackneyed. Through a combination of clever dialogue and character development, the studio breathes new life into dying plotlines. It’s amazing to watch “Cars,” knowing full well how things will turn out but still finding yourself engrossed in every aspect of the story. Pixar gets more out of a cartoon character than most live action movies do with real people.

What’s even more amazing is that once again, Pixar relies not on a single voice for their script, but on a committee. Eight names are given story credit, and at any other studio, this would be the kiss of death, a case of too many cooks. Here, under the guidance of director John Lasseter (the big man on Pixar’s totem pole, director of the company’s first three films and producer of their second three) and co-director Joe Ranft (the brilliant, invaluable creative force who sadly died last fall), the screenwriting group comes off less like a series of hack rewriters and more like an all-star team. Lasseter’s quest for perfection in his films means he’s unable to turn away a good idea, or to listen to criticism that leads him to dumping bad ideas. And so this team takes this basic premise and molds it until it becomes a character driven story with a heart to guide it and a sharp wit to make it lively.

And so, yes, we get the expected series of car-related puns that always pop up in cartoons about non-humans living in a human-ish world: there’s Jay Limo with some jokes; the TV delivers some “braking news;” Lightning professes to “float like a Cadillac, sting like a Beemer.” But the movie is smarter than just this, getting laughs out of, say, guest appearances from the “Car Talk” brothers, or casting George Carlin as a VW minibus who brews his own organic fuel. We even get cow tipping, in the form of tractor tipping, in one bizarrely ingenious scene.

More than catchy jokes, however, Lasseter and company work to build an actual world here, one not merely reliant on the gimmick of the premise. Just outside Radiator Springs sits a run-down drive-in theater, and I’d like to think that yes, in a world populated by cars, a drive-in is exactly right. And in a bit of history mirroring our own country, the birth of the interstate led to the death of the small town and the scenic drive. There’s even a scene that features a potential rebirth for Radiator Springs, and we discover a 1950s paradise where cruising (of course!) is the Friday night date activity of choice.

Even the animation itself works itself into actually giving serious thought into designing a world. Of course the animation is incredible all around (we get so much detail that the roads actually have realistic pot hole patches, and racing scenes look pretty much like the real thing, minus the big cartoon eyes, that is), but I can’t shake one notion out of my head: all the desert rock formations and landscapes come in the shape of cars. Namely, tail ends of fin-sporting classics, sticking up from the ground like in those classic tourist traps out west.

And the film never makes a big deal out of this. It’s something for the viewer to discover, a discovery which will earn big smiles - and this movie is loaded with so many discoveries like this. A lot of care went into this movie, not to cram cheap jokes into the corners of the screen, but to cram in brilliant little asides. This is a film that demands to be seen over and over again (especially on a big, wide screen), just to get the chance to soak in as much as possible.

Ah, but it all comes back to story and character, Pixar’s specialty. There’s something enchanting about the inhabitants of this world, from the cocky-but-innocent Lightning to the joyous energy of the Italian tire experts Luigi and Guido to the gee-whiz hick charm of a rusted tow truck by the name of Tow Mater, who is voiced by Dan “Larry the Cable Guy” Whitney in a performance so infectious in its happiness that I have actually come to like - nay, love - something that Larry the Cable Guy has done.

And then there’s Paul Newman, making his animated voice-over debut here as Doc Hudson, a 1950s Hornet who’s the town’s medic, judge, and all-around keeper of common sense. Newman’s performance is as intricate and engaging as anything he’s ever done before; Doc is world weary but wise, tough but tender. If you would ever ask for a car that looks the way Paul Newman talks, Doc would be what you get. It’s perhaps the most perfect pairing of voice and character in animation since Ellen Degeneres shined as Dory in “Finding Nemo.” And like that performance, Newman here gives more than anyone would ever expect from a cartoon.

Indeed, there’s absolutely nothing I can say against “Cars,” as flawless a piece of family entertainment as one could hope to get. It’s lively and wonderful and simply brilliant from start to finish. There must be something in the water over at Pixar, with this being their seventh straight work of absolute genius. Bring on number eight.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14707&reviewer=392
originally posted: 06/08/06 23:58:19
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell good not great 4 stars
3/22/15 Jerry Spray zzzzzzzzzzzzz....huh? OH! Did I just sleep through "Cars"? Go figure. 2 stars
10/18/11 Magic The second worst Pixar movie is still a Pixar movie. Nostalgic and gives warm fuzzies. 4 stars
6/15/11 My apples are rotting A tad underrated. Not aclassic but entertaining 4 stars
10/22/09 Rachel This is a favorite in our household. Cute and has a good message. 5 stars
1/13/09 Anonymous. it's cute and funny, like most other animated movies. :] 4 stars
9/14/08 Samantha Pruitt not as good as the other Pixar movies, still kind of funny 4 stars
7/18/08 Shaun Wallner I love this movie, great for the whole family 5 stars
7/06/08 John Millheim the kids loved it, I did too,the animation was great 5 stars
1/22/08 Chase My dad and I watched it and we both thought it was hilarious, but had a good plot. 5 stars
1/07/08 Steve Aside from official remakes I've never seen a movie that mirrors another so closely. 3 stars
8/10/07 dragongirl Really cool movie! Good charas, especially Doc was rocks! Well the hero ain't bad either! 5 stars
7/06/07 AnnieG Characters are bad role models for kids - best parts were for the F1 fans 3 stars
5/24/07 sultryHobbit Like my girlfriend: cute, beautiful, but slow and predictable. 3 stars
2/12/07 druggas great movie with a good moral to the story. I watch it every night. 5 stars
2/06/07 Randall J. Paltza There's nothing "cynical" about CARS. If it imitates Doc H, I'm glad I saw CARS instead! 5 stars
2/01/07 bkjohnston Teaching all of us that some things are more important than winning is NOT preachy. 5 stars
1/26/07 David Cohen Still a heck of a lot better than anything Disney is producing these days 3 stars
1/20/07 David A. Cute for kids, but it gets pretty preachy. 2 stars
1/06/07 Stu If the critics want deep, watch usual suspects. This is a kids film my 4 year old loved! 5 stars
1/06/07 xtmedia.net Disappointing for a Pixar,last 20min saves the movie. Seen Doc H, I agree with the comment! 3 stars
12/23/06 Tessa it's ok 3 stars
12/14/06 Lloyd Loved it! Will watch it over and over and over again! 5 stars
12/06/06 Lou Perez Loved it! This movie has a much deeper Story than you think, if you can see it! 5 stars
11/24/06 Dave T. Very clever...after the first viewing. 5 stars
11/22/06 Chris realized 3 days later when thinking about nothing that it reminded me of Doc H-wood 2 stars
11/20/06 Mohammad I think you missed the goal of "Cars." It's a tribute to car-nuts like me - we love it! 5 stars
11/09/06 Charles Tatum Beautiful to look at, but drags...get it, drags?! 4 stars
11/03/06 becky one of the best disney movies yet 5 stars
9/26/06 Cruzia Wonderfull graphic, awesome story, you'll dissappointed by not watching it !!! 5 stars
9/24/06 Lisa Craven Loved the animation and story line. Enjoyable dialogue and characters. 5 stars
9/02/06 Christopher Stucky Eventually, Pixar has to make a bad one. This isn't it yet. 5 stars
8/23/06 Chad Thomas Best animated movie of the year! Classic Pixar. 5 stars
8/17/06 Heather Marie Any requests?!! 5 stars
8/17/06 Pn. A feast for my PC & Pixel soaked brainstem. Will not be as good on second viewing... 5 stars
8/16/06 Mary Beth great animation, enjoyable, surprised at low ratings 4 stars
8/13/06 Sharon yea I took my little 5 year old brother and he hated it! 1 stars
8/06/06 Robyn Awesome Film!!! 5 stars
8/06/06 Erik Van Sant The first 'bad' Pixar film. Even that is better than most of the shit offered this summer. 3 stars
8/04/06 Gaogaigar I was disappointed with this Pixar picture- dozed off somewhere in Radiator Springs! 3 stars
7/25/06 Quigley A good but not great Pixar movie. stunning visuals; and ya gotta love Mater 4 stars
7/10/06 Sarah Love it. Brilliant animation. In opposition to a few blunt ratings, it was incredibly witty 4 stars
6/30/06 Christopher Didn't like the previews but this is a really great movie. Bonnie Hunt's vocals were great. 5 stars
6/30/06 Gerry Irons Boring and Disappointing. Slow story with overly simple charactors and story 3 stars
6/27/06 PAG Solid, but not great, film. Larry The Cable Guy was pretty funny. 3 stars
6/25/06 Mase Sorely lacking something all pixar films had has to this point, a sense of adventure. 3 stars
6/22/06 orpament torture, even with my son 1 stars
6/20/06 Agent Sands Fantastic and substantial. Greatly stimulant of emotions. 5 stars
6/19/06 JLo It was great, better than Gigli, that's for sure! 5 stars
6/18/06 John Aster Habig What the hell is this crap? Since when does scrap metal relate to us as human beings? 1 stars
6/15/06 ES Better than bug's life and moster's inc. 4 stars
6/13/06 tjpeterson AWESOME, don't know these other people watched, son loved it,will be the 1st to buy on DVD! 5 stars
6/12/06 KingNeutron Critics too harsh on this one; I laughed, I cried; looks Awesome. (But I havnt seen Doc H.) 4 stars
6/12/06 bullit16 I would watch any Pixar movie any time. Except this one. 4 stars
6/11/06 ajay loved all the other pixar movies for the great story/characters. this falls *way* short. 2 stars
6/11/06 Pokejedservo Take it as the great old-fashioned storyline as it is. This isn't new age at all... 5 stars
6/11/06 Joe This movie was GREAT! funny, good story, who saw Doc Hollywood anyway? 5 stars
6/10/06 katsat Good but not great. Needed MORE anthropomorphism for audience to relate to. Great visuals. 4 stars
6/10/06 San Lamar it was ok 3 stars
6/10/06 Koitus GREAT intro-short; MUST STAY for the credits. The rest = Eh? Agree with Doc H-Wood cmnts. 3 stars
6/10/06 MickOZ ANAMATION IS FOR KIDS UNDER 10! that said my 5 year old liked it. 5 stars
6/09/06 Adrian I definetely got my hopes way too up. Aside from the visuals, it's totally boring. 2 stars
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  09-Jun-2006 (G)
  DVD: 07-Nov-2006

  28-Jul-2006 (PG)

  08-Jun-2006 (G)

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