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Cars - Review


Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary; Inspiration For Cars – An Exciting Journey With Director John Lasseter That Explores How The Story Of ‘Cars’ Was Born; Mater And The Ghostlight – An Exclusive New Animated Short Created For This DVD Starring Mater, The Rusty But Trusty Tow Truck; One Man Band – Short Which Played With The Film In Cinemas; Deleted Scenes; Sneak Peek At ‘Ratatouille’; Widescreen.

BY comparison to Pixar’s very best work (Toy Story, The Incredibles), Cars barely gets out of third gear – but it remains streets ahead of most animated family movies currently doing the rounds.

Directed by John Lasseter, the film is very much a labour of love that’s designed to reflect the filmmaker’s passion for automobiles and his desire to cast fresh light on a forgotten part of America – namely, the small towns that occupy Route 66. Since the onset of freeways, such communities have slipped off the radar and become virtual ghost towns.

The film follows the fortunes of arrogant race car Lightning McQueen (voiced by the inimitable Owen Wilson), an emerging hero who dreams of winning the Piston Cup and securing the lucrative sponsorship of its existing champion, The King.

En route to the final race of the season, however, Lightning takes an unexpected detour to the sleepy middle American town of Radiator Springs, where he quickly falls foul of the local law enforcement.

Forced to do community service, Lightning eventually comes to appreciate the small-town values and makes friends with rusty tow-truck (Larry The Cable Guy) while falling for the curvy charms of a super-slick Porsche named Sally (Bonnie Hunt).

But will he be able to pay his debt, maintain newfound loyalties and return victoriously to the racing circuit?

Cars contains many of the usual Pixar hallmarks, such as beautiful design, touching humour and wonderful vocal performances, but it doesn’t really motor along as smoothly as past successes.

Lassetter’s film becomes a little too nostalgic at times and frequently becomes gridlocked by its four-wheeled characters who don’t translate quite as well as previous incarnations (such as fish, toys and super-heroes).

The humour, too, is much more slight, reflecting the overall tone of the film and is often at its funniest during the smaller moments, such as when dealing with lesser characters like Luigi and Guido, or following the antics of the town’s flies (also forms of car).

If such criticisms seem overly harsh, then it’s only because Pixar have set themselves such incredibly high standards – and it’s important to stress that Cars still has plenty to recommend it.

The film is by far and away the company’s most vividly realised creation so far. It looks amazing and one can only watch and admire the level of detail that has gone into creating this latest world.

Both the race track sequences and those involving the surrounding beauty of Radiator Springs (on Route 66) are beautiful to look at and should have viewers of every age enthralled.

The performances, too, are up to the usual standards and mix some popular Hollywood names with celebrities from the international world of motor sport.

Paul Newman is especially brilliant as the voice of a retired racer hiding out in Radiator Springs, while Owen Wilson is his usual smooth-talking self as Lightning McQueen.

Strong support also comes from Larry The Cable Guy (as a rusty towtruck friend of Lightning’s), Michael Keaton (as a rival racer) and Tony Shalhoub (as Italian racing fanatic Luigi), as well as racing supremos Richard Petty (as The King) and Michael Schumacher (as himself).

This is very clearly a labour of love that’s been meticulously put together to genuinely stretch those creative geniuses within the Pixar community.

In terms of family entertainment, Cars cruises along in supremely stylish fashion, offering something that everyone can identify with and enjoy – it’s just that it’s not as slick as Pixar’s finest vehicles.

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Certificate: PG
Running time: 2hrs 1min