Thursday, 2 November 2017

Review #1,266: 'Cars' (2006)

Ever since Pixar first wowed cinema-going audiences across the globe with their feature-length debut Toy Story, the company has become the standard for cinematic excellence. Not only for their constantly groundbreaking animation and ability to entertain both children and adults alike, but for the quality of their scripts and the amount of genuine heart that pours out of them. Yet for every WALL-E, The Incredibles or Inside Out there's always a Monsters University, A Bug's Life or Brave. These films still get a pass because, after all, "it's only a kid's movie," but the disappointment is all the more crushing with the knowledge of Pixar's capabilities. Cars is firmly in the latter category, falling into the traps of a familiar plot and a script that isn't quite up to scratch.

Cars' reputation has been damaged ever further in the decade since its release, and this is no doubt thanks to the lazy and bitter-tasting sequels and spin-offs, something the company has churned out at an increasing rate ever since Disney took over. I must admit that I didn't think much of Cars back in 2005. It lacked excitement and a character to really root for, and the story of a cocky upstart learning learning a valuable lesson to change their outlook on the world can be seen in countless other children's movies. However, on my second viewing I found moments of tenderness between the cracks, an old-fashioned romanticism to really warm the heart. The movie is about more than a young race car named Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) and his quest to escape the forgotten town of Radiator Spings to reach the Piston Cup. It's also about the changing face of America and the way its capitalist nature is leaving the little guys behind.

One aspect of Cars that was never criticised was its cutting-edge animation, and the way it brought the loud, dangerous world of racing and the country's glorious landscapes to beautiful life. It is still utterly glorious to look at, whether it be a wide shot of a darkening horizon or a close-up of buck-toothed tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). The small town off Route 66 is full of other colourful archetypes, voiced by the likes of Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Tony Shalhoub, Cheech Marin and George Carlin. The problems I had with the film the first time around are still present - the climax should be a lump-in-the-throat moment but is oddly devoid of emotion, and the film offers no surprises at all - but they just didn't seem to bother me as much. The hefty running-time (just shy of 2 hours) also whizzed by, despite the lack of genuine laugh-out-loud moments. So forget Cars 2, Planes and those awful-looking straight-to-DVD spin-offs you ignore in Tesco, and give Cars another chance.

Directed by: John Lasseter
Voices: Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Cheech Marin, Tony Shalhoub, George Carlin, Michael Keaton
Country: USA

Rating: ****

Tom Gillespie

Cars (2006) on IMDb

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