Written by Robert L. Baird, Dan Fogelman, Dan Gerson
Jorgen Klubien, John Lasseter, Philip Loren
Kiel Murray, Joe Ranft
Directed by John Lasseter
Running Time: 1:56
Cars was a decent but not great film that will likely go down as being the weakest entry from the Disney/Pixar collaboration.
Lightning McQueen is a hot shot rookie on the racing circuit. Going into the last race of the season he's tied for first place in the Piston Cup standings. He believes he's a one-man team and it almost costs him the championship, but there is a three-way tie for first. So all three cars must head to California for one last race. Along the way, Lightning gets lost and ends up in a town off famed Route 66. When the nearby highway opened, the town shriveled up and almost died. Lightning gets arrested and must pave the main road as his punishment. While there he learns about life, and what it means to have friends.
Too long! That's the first major problem with Cars. The movie clocks in at a couple of minutes under two hours, and that's not including the five minute short One Man Band which appears before the feature presentation. Cars could have easily shaved off about 20 minutes from the middle of the movie to make it much more appealing. The basic story in Cars isn't anything new. Young kid thinks he knows everything only to find out he doesn't. You know what the story is and you know it's going to end with some kind of redemption, it's just a matter of actually getting there. And for long stretches in the middle of the film, nothing really happens. If the movie was extremely funny I could forgive the length, but there was little humor coming from the main characters. The secondary characters got most of the laughs, but they were generally one quick joke then back to the main story.
The animation was, of course, spectacular. Everything looked flawless, and the ability to give life to a car is fairly amazing. But the key to a great animated film is either a new, solid story, or just total laughter, and Cars had neither. That's not to say it was a boring movie. The race sequences were thrilling and made you feel like you were really at a NASCAR event. There were little things that I found funny, like how the flies in the movie were really tiny cars with wings. There is a sequence at the end of the movie where past Pixar films are remade with cars as the characters. And Larry the Cable Guy's character Mater was pretty cute throughout. He was the only 'major' character that was entertaining the entire movie. Owen Wilson's Lightning was the straight guy for the entire film so everything was played off of him. Paul Newman's Doc Hudson wasn't played for laughs. Bonnie Hunt's Sally was the love interest so she didn't have much to do. The secondary characters like Tony Shalhoub's Luigi and Guide Quaroni's Guido, the guys who ran the tire shop, were always funny. If the filmmakers had tossed aside the love story and parts of the middle and added more with the side characters, this movie could have been really good. Instead, and I hate to say this since I'm a huge fan of the past Pixar films, Cars felt kind of flat.
DVD extras include the One Man Band short, some deleted scenes and behind the scenes information, and a new animated short called Mater and the Ghostlight which was kind of fun. I will say that watching the film on TV might have been better than seeing it in theaters. I guess there's less expectation now but watching it on my couch felt more personal and the animation doesn't lose anything on the small screen. Some movies need to be seen in theaters, but Cars easily translates to the small screen. And although the movie isn't as good as other Pixar films, it's still something you should have in your collection.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, Cars is a small misstep in the Disney/Pixar group of animated films. The animation was spectacular, but the story and humor was lacking. And with a running time of just under 2 hours, the movie is much, much too long.
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