Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson), a hotshot rookie race car driven to succeed,
discovers that life is about the journey, not the finish line, when he finds himself unexpectedly
detoured in the sleepy Route 66 town of Radiator Springs. On route across the country to the big
Piston Cup Championship in California to compete against two seasoned pros, McQueen gets to know
the town's offbeat characters –including Sally (a snazzy 2002 Porsche voiced by Bonnie Hunt), Doc
Hudson (a 1951 Hudson Hornet with a mysterious past, voiced by Paul Newman), and Mater (a rusty
but trusty tow truck voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) – who help him realize that there are more
important things than trophies, fame and sponsorship. Fueled with plenty of humor, action,
heartfelt drama, and amazing new technical feats, Cars is a high octane delight for moviegoers
of all ages.
If there's any film studio churning out one quality film after another to near flawless
results, it's Pixar Animation. The Incredibles was the studio's last effort and the film
truly lived up to its title. Their latest project, simply titled Cars, was slated for
release last year but was delayed to have further work done to it. The end result is up to speed
with its predecessors, but doesn't exactly top them.
It's hard to ignore the fact that Cars is heaps of fun from start to finish. The visuals
are the best you could imagine from animation and the voice acting is spot-on. As with many of the
other Pixar vehicles, Cars is also chock-full of mini homages to their previous films,
inside jokes, and clever ideas to create a new, yet familiar, world. While this was touched on
with the city atmosphere in A Bug's Life or the world of scary creatures for Monster's Inc,
Pixar has gone the distance with Cars to make a human-free world inhabited exclusively by
all kinds of automobiles. From insects represented as tiny VW bugs with wings to farm tractors being the
equivalent of cows, Pixar successfully continues to think outside the box.
The story isn't especially original, but stands to be unique in its own right despite
familiarity. The film follows hot shot rookie racecar Lightning McQueen, voiced perfectly by Owen
Wilson, who gets lost in a rundown town and held there until he repairs a road he accidentally
damaged. While there, he finds friendship among the country folk, learning things that life in the
fast lane wasn't teaching him. While certain story aspects reminded me of other films and stories
(especially the stranger-saves-small-town-who-change-his-life-in-return angle of Jim Carrey's
underrated The Majestic), Cars has enough charm and its own personality to stand out.
And the other voice talents didn't hurt this either. Those that especially stood out were blue collar
comedian Larry The Cable Guy as Mater, veteran actor Paul Newman as Doc, Monk's always
delightful Tony Shaloub as Luigi, and Michael Keaton as the rival Chick. Although they had very
little screentime, Jeremy Piven was a nice surprise as Lightning's manager Harv while staple Pixar
voice contribution John Ratzenberger was also wonderful as Mack.
While it's hard to think of a single negative thing about Cars, something seems to
hold it back from the greatness that the Toy Story films and The Incredibles
achieved before it. Perhaps it's harder for us to relate to automobiles given human traits,
I'm not sure. Another problem may be the film's pacing. While a wonderful story and perfectly
written to "flesh" out the characters, it may not move along quick enough to really keep the kids
interested for its duration. They're the kind of problems that great stories like The Majestic
and The Kid have suffered. The other problem Cars may endure, is that it's a bit too long
for an animated film. While adults can absorb and appreciate each moment of screentime, I can see
it being difficult for a child to make it through its 2 hour running time, let alone the slower
Whatever the flaw that might exist within the confines of film that comprises Cars,
it's a fine addition to Pixar's catalog of animated features. With great comedy, great visual, and great
characters carry Cars to the finish line, Pixar continues to create films with the right
elements that other Hollywood filmmakers should be looking to for examples on how to do it right.
Oh, and all viewers should stick it out for the entire credits, and even after they end, to catch
all of the film. Some of Cars funniest moments are in the credits, and will be appreciated
especially by those who have been enjoying Pixar films for years.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 6/15/06)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: Lightning points out a tattoo on the bumper of Sally's car;
Mater jokes with Lightning that he was getting "cozy at the Cozy Cone" (with Sally, but they weren't)
Vulgarity/Language: 1 "Oh L-rd," and although
not really profanity, Radiator Springs is referred to as "Hillybilly Hell" twice
Alcohol/Drugs: Filmore apparently makes
"homemade organic fuel" and appears to be burned out like a hippie who had done drugs (Sarge says
"The 60's weren't good to you, were they?")
Violence: Some racing car crashes,
which obviously can be more harrowing since the car that is crashing has a personality
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most
reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content (with a few exceptions). However, if the content
really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.