Saturday, November 18, 2006


CarsOwen Wilson Directed by John Lasseter
Starring Owen Wilson (Voice)
Reviewed by Byron Merritt



Pixar has proven its animation metal a few times. FINDING NEMO and THE INCREDIBLES are their most notable achievements, pulling off excellent scripts mixed with fun animation and great star-power voices.

But the one thing that animation studios (including Pixar) have trouble with is displaying human beings within their animation. Many times they look plastic or stilted. The Incredibles avoided this by harkening back to animations-of-ol’ but applying new styles. Finding Nemo didn’t have many human faces so it wasn’t such a hurdle. With CARS, Pixar did something very wise: they didn’t show a single human face. Personalities were under the hood (so to speak) of the automobiles which juxtaposed nicely with their humanity.

The story follows a cocky up-and-coming race car named Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson, WEDDING CRASHERS) who’s triple tie win forces a showdown in California where the three would-be winners will face off. Chick Hicks (Michael Keaton, FIRST DAUGHTER) and The King (racing icon Richard Petty) are the other two contestants and they make it to California without any problems. They are ready to win "The Piston Cup." But Lightning’s driver Mack (John Ratzenberger, CHEERS TV series) falls asleep on the road and Lightning slides out the back (also while asleep) while on "the highway." Lightning soon wakes up and tries to find Mack, but stumbles upon a one-cylinder town along abandoned Route 66 called Radiator Springs. Unfortunately, Lightning also tears up the town’s road and must do his civic duty by pulling the paving machine for the length of the city. Stuck without any resources, Lightning grudgingly does the job, but not before learning to slow his rpm’s and smell the proverbial roses. He meets up with Radiator Spring’s city attorney Sally Carrera (Bonnie Hunt, MONSTERS, INC.), a sexy little Porsche model whom he finds himself oddly attracted to. There’s also Doc Hudson (Paul Newman, THE STING) the town’s physician/judge who harbors a big secret; Ramone (Cheech Marin, TIN CUP), a low-riding, paint-shop owner; Luigi (Tony Shalhoub, GALAXY QUEST), a tire store proprietor with a love of Italian cars; and, of course, Mater (Larry The Cable Guy), the rusted out but trustworthy tow truck who adds the most hilarity to the film.

Cars gushes with family friendly messages but no one should hold that against it. Animation features, by their very nature, are directed toward younger audiences and allowing that innocence to come out in Cars is pulled off well without becoming achingly super-sweet. But we’ve also learned that adults enjoy these movies and Cars does an admirable job of entertaining them, too. Most kids probably won’t know what cow-tipping is, so might not understand the slow natured tractors that double as cattle and are tipped over by Mater and Lightning. But adults with experience in this area will probably laugh themselves silly.

That there are no human faces in Cars also aided it immensely. Suspending disbelief was easy and will allow kids and parents alike a great ride throughout.

Click here for the Cars movie trailer!


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