“Cars” is in the pole position as one of the year’s best
We can all thank Nancy Lasseter for the inspiration behind Pixar’s latest animation instant classic “Cars.” A few years back she demanded that her husband John (the award winning director of the “Toy Story” and “A Bug’s Life” films), take a lengthy family vacation. So for two months the Lasseters traveled across the country in a motor home. As a result, the filmmaker was reminded of two important things: The value of time spent with loved ones is essential, and life’s real reward is the journey not the destination.
“Cars” then, is homage to slowing down, examining what really matters, and the literal and figurative beauty of traveling off the beaten path.
In this case, it’s the historic Route 66 where cocky hotshot racecar Lightning McQueen (voiced by the affable Owen Wilson) unexpectedly finds himself, and the sleepy town of Radiator Springs, which becomes his life-changing detour.
Among the characters who set him straight are Doc Hudson (a craggily voiced Paul Newman, himself a racecar driver, as a 1951 Hudson Hornet), Sally Carrera (a snappy Porsche voiced by Bonnie Hunt), and Mater (a buck-toothed hillbilly tow truck, brought to scene-stealing life by Larry the Cable Guy).
Car lovers– among them nine-year-old boys and their NASCAR-loving fathers-and anyone who appreciates the wonders of a road trip on a great American highway are the natural audience for the simple and predictable premise of Pixar’s latest. But beyond the amazing graphics that we’ve come to expect, which include shimmering car contours, breathtaking desert backdrops, and charming human characterizations, the film’s heart pulses like the beat of a V-8 pushing 750 horses. (And Lightning’s does just that.)
Pixar’s longest film to date moves at a leisurely pace, but that’s the point here. So while the jokes may not be fired off machine gun style there’s more time to reflect between the steady laughs. There are also an uncanny number of automobile references to go along with the stunning visual flair– enough to inspire multiple viewings.
As usual for Pixar, the pre-show short and the end credits earn their share of unforced grins. The year’s frontrunner in the “Best Original Song” Oscar category is also featured here– James Taylor performing the Randy Newman-penned “Our Town.” (This category is desperate for worthy nominees. We’re still recovering from “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” last year’s winner.)
Disney poneyed up $7.4 Billion to keep Pixar in-house, and “Cars” makes it look like a bargain. There’s sure to be a dud somewhere in its future, but right now, the Disney/Pixar combination is the film industry’s only sure-fire, guar-an-teed, git-‘er-done hitmaker.
Rated “G.” (Not a typo)