DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Cars

Thursday, 19 November 2009


Cars (2006) dir. John Lasseter
Voices by: Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Cheech Marin, Tony Shaloub


By Alan Bacchus

As creative director of the company, over most of the decade John Lasseter had served as a supervisory Walt Disney-like role in the Pixar family. “Cars” was Lasseter’s first feature since 1999’s ‘Toy Story”. Unfortunately while filmmakers like Brad Bird, Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter were elevating the craft of CG animation to heights loftier than “Toy Story” the merely adequate story of “Cars” makes it an ironically disappointing film in comparison to ‘Up’, ‘Wall-E’ and ‘The Incredibles".

The opening scene is a well-choreographed, an animated Nascar car race at night. From the wide angles, the details of the event make it almost indistinguishable from an actual television broadcast. Lightning (Owen Wilson) is one of the top race cars and after his last race, there’s a tie for the championship, thus engineering a three-way race-off for ultimate victory. As Lightning is being transported by truck across the country in prep for the big race, he finds himself abandoned by accident in the middle of the desert. Of course, since Lightning is a superstar celebrity car who knows nothing of the open road life of regular cars, he’s like a fish out of water among the rural and working class bumpkins of the small town he wanders into.

As he learns to operate like a real working automobile he discovers love with one of the local gals and connects with a wily old veteran car looking to reclaim his old glory as a once great race car. The film, of course, builds to a big car race which tests Lightning skills and the advice he’s learned from his new friendships.

There are no human characters in the 2006 Pixar film "Cars", as the title suggests its just cars which happens to make it one of the most photo realistic of the Pixar films, the reflective surfaces of the vehicles producing some of the sharpest images in any of the Pixar films.

Key to any rendering characters in any animated film are its eyes and facial features. And on each vehicle Lasseter is clever to create eyelids out of windshield wipers and mouths out the grill and the ears out of the rearview mirrors..

The relation of the make and model of each car to its own personality makes it easy for Lasseter to establish the different characters, The old model T Ford, the rusty old tow truck plays the southern hick, the slick female Porsche, the two small Fiats who play the funny Italian stereotypes Luigi and Guido and the Hummer as a type-a military drill sergeant.

Even though the Pixar films are less than 15 years old, compared with the sophistication of the later pictures, “Cars” feels strangely dated. In particular the James Taylor song interlude at the end of the second act is as sickening and sappy as those hideous Randy Newman songs in Toy Story 1 and 2.

The new Disney Blu-Ray edition is packaged as a box set contain two die-cast rendered collectors toys of the ‘Cars’ characters.

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