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Movie review: ‘Cars'

 
rating (out of four)


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Fast-Paised review: ‘Cars'
 
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I thought it was a great movie, although a little bit long for the smaller kids (especially after the 20-25 minutes of commercials and previews and the "short" they showed beforehand.)My 5 year old loved it, my 2 year old sat through three quarters of it.
Submitted by: KF
9:59 AM CDT, June 12, 2006
I think people set the bar high every time a Pixar/Disney film hits the big screen. This one still does a good job of appearing to kids while making sure adults don't sleep through the film. A good mix of voice acting, and still an expected, but solid, animation effort. I think it's worth the see.
Submitted by: Louis - Kansas
7:58 AM CDT, June 12, 2006

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It has been 20 years since the first Pixar creation made its debut; a short, called "Luxo Jr.," premiered at Siggraph, an annual conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques that attracts a very, ahem, particular demographic. Specifically, nerds--nerds you may have seen recently laughing all the way to the bank.

Suffice it to say the audience for Pixar's work has grown substantially; by the end of 2005, the studio's six feature films had grossed more than $3.2 billion worldwide. That spectacular success is due, in part, at least, to the animators' uncanny ability to anthropomorphize non-human characters: children's toys, fields full of insects, furry beasts that hide in the closet and fish. It doesn't seem logical that we'd all fall deeply in love with a neurotic clown fish, but we did.

These triumphs, of course, mean that any Pixar movie is held to ridiculously high standards; it's not enough for a film to be technically stunning, which we've come to expect as a matter of course, it also needs to be genuinely affecting. Lately, Steve Jobs' animation geniuses have stumbled on the emotional front. Last year's "The Incredibles" was fast and furious and had its moments of joy, but it lacked the pure heart of "Monsters, Inc." or "Finding Nemo." "Cars" suffers from the same deficiency--while it's a technically perfect movie, its tone is too manic, its characters too jaded and, in the end, its story too empty to stand up to expectations.

The blame, it must be said, lies partly on the casting director who plucked Owen Wilson from his perfectly successful string of lad flicks and placed the burden of this movie square atop his goofy blond head. Wilson isn't exactly Brando, but he's acquitted himself well enough in his previous excursions, most of which feature him engaged in stoner schtick ("The Royal Tenenbaums," "Wedding Crashers"). That dopiness can be endearing in small doses, but his whiny, super-nasal tenor doesn't serve him well in a voice-only movie. His Lightning McQueen is a spoiled brat, and even after he's had his comeuppance and learns his inevitable valuable lesson, he's still pretty insufferable.

The story line here is less intricate and frankly, less interesting, than what we've seen in previous Pixar flicks. McQueen is traveling cross-country to a big race when he slides out of his trailer and winds up in Radiator Springs, a dusty little hamlet in the middle of nowhere. The population of the town is instantly suspicious of the hot rod in their midst, none more so than Paul Newman's grizzled old race car (Newman, himself a race car driver, phones it in, perhaps recognizing a substandard script just a little bit too late). Tony Shalhoub is the film's primary bright spot, bringing his deliciously wry delivery to an Italian car-as-tire-salesman prone to overheating.

McQueen is desperate to escape, until he comes grill to grill with Bonnie Hunt's sweet little Porsche who fled the fast lane of big-city life to open a (mostly empty) tourist motel. At this point, the movie's tone shifts inexplicably from manic to contemplative, then to downright soppy. It seems that Radiator Springs was once a happening spot on the map, a popular way station on Route 66. Flashback to the glory days of driving, when people weren't so worried about getting where they were going that they couldn't enjoy the journey. A simpler time, when people were willing to take their time, visit the little towns, get to know the individual characters. A less hectic time, when people weren't so concerned with being clever and state-of-the-art that they actually took the time to create characters worth caring about. … What? Sorry, I got distracted there for a second.

Anyway, after the movie's spastic first half, this sudden rush of wistfulness feels more than a bit forced. Luckily, there are Pixar-style witticisms to distract us from the sagging plot. These include: A racetrack announcer/car named Bob Cutlass (voiced by Bob Costas); a sponsorship team headed up by Tom and Ray of NPR's "Car Talk"; Volkswagen bug insects swarming a light bulb. Late in the film, Arnold Schwarzenegger appears as a Hummer (the car the Governator actually drives).

Luckily for everyone, things get more or less back on track (so to speak), when Lightning's racing career takes an unexpected turn (oh, the puns just won't stop). This deposits us squarely in the arms of the happy ending we knew was just around the bend (that's three for three!).

Whatever you do, don't leave before watching the snippets that run during the closing credits--the self-referential, tongue in cheek "outtakes" are quite possibly the funniest part of this movie--a visual stunner that seems to have misplaced its heart.

jreaves@tribune.com

----

'Cars'

Directed by John Lasseter, Joe Ranft; screenplay by Dan Fogelman, Lasseter, Ranft, Kiel Murray, Phil Lorin and Jorgen Klubien; edited by Ken Schretzmann; music by Bruno Coon and Randy Newman; production design by William Cone and Bob Pauley; produced by Darla K. Anderson. A Pixar release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:56. MPAA rating: G.

Lightning McQueen - Owen Wilson

Doc Hudson - Paul Newman

Sally - Bonnie Hunt

Mater - Larry the Cable Guy

Ramone - Cheech Marin





 



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