Directed By: John Lasseter
Starring: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt and Paul Newman
Screenplay By: Don Fogelman, John Lasseter, Joe Ranft, Kiel Murray, Phil Lorin and Jorgen Klubien
Original Release: June 9, 2006
Something that I liked about doing the original Vault Disney project was that there was a lot of variety. Some weeks we’d watch an okay film, other weeks we’d watch something bad, while every once in a while we got a movie that was truly amazing. The trouble I find with Pixar is that every film is fantastic. Week after week, all I can do is talk about how flat out perfect each film is. Well, I am glad to say that for this reason, I am excited to talk to you about Cars, a film which, while not downright terrible, is far from perfect. Rev up your engines folks. This one could get a little messy.
John Lasseter first got the idea for a movie about cars and their difficult plight in life during a road trip, which he took with his family. Upon returning to work, he began researching the history of route 66. Lasseter admitted that he loved cars. Aside from Disney and animation, cars were his second passion so in doing this film, he believed that he could combine the best of both worlds. Originally called Route 66, the film’s title was changed so as not to be seen as an updated version of the 1960’s television show of the same name. The animation team took a road trip along route 66 in order to research the film.
Cars might be the first film in this project that took me two sittings to get through. Upon our first sit down, we got about 30 minutes in when I claimed that I couldn’t do it. I was too tired to focus on this film that was failing to capture my attention. Upon second sitting, we finished the film. To me, this film can be split into three distinct parts: The beginning, which is meh, the middle, which is boring and painful, and the climax, which is actually very rewarding. By the end of the film, when the action revs up and Lighting begins to learn his lesson, it’s very gratifying to see him stop everything to help an older car win the race. It’s almost heart warming. ALMOST!
Inherently, I find that Cars breaks the mold of something I’ve always loved about Pixar films. Pixar has this great sense of “When we’re not looking.” What do toys do when we’re not looking? What do bugs do when we’re not looking? What do the monsters in our closet do when we’re not looking? Yet, Cars takes place in its own world, and that world doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Why do cars need seats if they aren’t holding passengers? How do cars manage to fix neon lights without any help? How do cars pay for things? Unlike, Zootopia, which I praised for being a very realized and workable world, Cars seems to take the route of the less questions answered the better.
This is also one of the weaker casts in any Pixar film. Lightning is sure to appeal to young boys and girls with an appetite for cars and racing, but to me, he seems pretty one dimensional, even by the end when he learns to not only care for himself. Furthermore, Owen Wilson often seems flat out board by the lines he’s delivering. And Sally Carrera, while being one of the most likable characters in the film, is also one of the most stereotypical female characters to grace ANY Disney film. Why does she like this guy? I am brought back to the days of films like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty where the heroin likes the prince simply because he’s, well, the only guys she knows maybe? There is 100% no good reason for this girl to fall for this jerk face of a character and I often found their romance to be forced and inexplicable.
This brings me to Mater, who I have the most mixed feelings about that have ever been mixed. I am NOT a fan of Larry the Cable Guy. His brash, dumb and often offensive redneck humor reminds me how different I am from most of my family, who are the kind of folks who might be sitting in the audience for one of his shows. I find his voice obnoxious and I am happy to never have to see him or hear him. BUT!!!! (Pause for dramatic effect.) It is because of Larry’s fantastic voice work here that Mater is hands down the most memorable character in this film. He’s cute and charming and he’s the only character that actually got a genuine laugh out of me. Sure, the tractor tipping sequences are utterly terrible and the lowest brow humor of any Pixar film, but Mater is the only character with genuine heart and he’s also the only voice actor in the film who really gave it their all.
The film really picks up once we learn that Doc was once a professional racer. From here, we get to really see how the racing world can affect a person. Up until this moment, there are a lot of sequences that just seem to be filling up space. From tractor tipping to learning to drive on dirt for what seems like an eternity, much of the center of this film is just fluff. The final 45 minutes though, is filled with moving moments and a finale race that makes a lot of those boring parts of the film really pay off.
I could go on about how Cheech Marin once again plays a racial stereotype or about how it seems odd to me that of all the jobs the female character could have had before, the creators chose to make her a lawyer, but there’s one final thing that I think is important to note. I don’t really care about cars. I work at a shop where there are motorcycles and old cars on display. Throughout the day, folks come in and look at them in awe. They’re so taken with them and I just don’t understand it. That’s not to say that this film is bad because it’s about something I don’t care about. It’s to say that with all my criticisms, it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, this film is made for a demographic of people who like racing and cars and I am not just not one of those people. I’m sure there are youngsters who LOVE this movie and its characters and that’s okay, because they probably like cars and Nascar and Hot Wheels. I’m not a car enthusiast and I don’t care about racing. This film is really great for someone. I know it is. That person just isn’t me.
Cars is a graphically stunning film. Though its story falters more often than not, it still manages to convey a message of slowing down and not taking those around us, or the world around us, for granted. Cars is a film about letting go of the hustle and bustle and just being. Beneath all the flat characters and boring moments, Cars still manages to convey an important message in the end. Does it do it flawlessly like the other films from its studio? Absolutely not, but it still does it none the less. Racing fans are sure to love this revved up racer, but in my opinion, it is the least of the Pixar canon so far. I’ve paid my dues in watching this film. Now I will reward myself by watching the next film in the series, which just so happens to by my favorite Pixar film of all.
Next Up: Ratatouille