Starring: Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Cheech Marin, Tony Shalhoub, George Carlin, John Ratzenberger, Michael Keaton, Richard Petty
Director: John Lasseter and Joe Ranft
I’d put off seeing this one even though I’ve enjoyed every movie Pixar has ever put out, because none of the previews drew my interest at all. Had it been put out by any other animation studio, I wouldn’t have even considered seeing it. But, I figured that I owed Pixar this one, as they’ve yet to let me down.
Well… consider that streak at an end. As I suspected, Cars is their mulligan. Luckily, their next picture Ratatouille looks good, so this one won’t be enough to make me abandon them. But, if you’re like me, and weren’t that interested in Cars, but figured you should see it anyway because it’s Pixar… don’t bother. Or, at least, wait on it.
On the positive side, the movie looks as gorgeous as you’d expect from Pixar. From the colourful race tracks of NASCAR, to neon-lit cars taking over the highway, to sumptuous views of a sun-kissed desert, and a spectacular shot of a waterfall, the animation holds up to the studio’s high standards. But, that doesn’t really impress me that much. While the animation is always great, it’s one of the last reasons why I watch Pixar movies. I watch for the storytelling, the humour, and the humanity they inject into their films, even when they don’t deal in human characters. A lot of animation studios produce good looking movies, but don’t have stories worth telling. Pixar was always the exception.
Until now. As much as it hurts me to do so, I have to give credit to Skooch because he totally called it: Cars is Doc Hollywood with cars instead of people. If there was ever any movie that I didn’t think would ever be remade, that’s one of them (really, I could probably say the same for the entire Michael J. Fox collection). Is Hollywood so completely out of new ideas that this is what it’s come to? Then I guess I can’t wait for the new The Secret of My Succe$s. Maybe it’ll be re-done as J-Horror or something.
Worse than the lack of originality, the movie was boring for long stretches. Just my luck, I decide to slum it with a movie I wasn’t that interested in, believing that it would at least meet the minimum standard of entertainment, and it didn’t. It dragged, which is really bad considering it was given an epic-for-a-kid’s-movie running time of 116 minutes. I’m frankly surprised that a lot of the children in the theatre were able to sit still throughout, as it was a bit of a struggle for me. There were a few amusing touches that fit in with the automotive motif, but a lot of them felt like the kind of cheap gags that have infected all mainstream non-Pixar animated movies of the past few years (though I did get a particular kick out of Jeremy Piven as Owen Wilson‘s motormouth agent).
In the end, beautiful animation is great, and little gags and jokes are fun, but if they don’t help a compelling story with compelling characters, then it means very little. Cars adds up to much less then its assembled parts, feeling like a movie put together not by artists, but rather by executives trying to maximise profits by appealing to the ever-growing NASCAR demographic and making ready-for-Happy Meals toys, perfect for a new ride for Disney’s themeparks. In short, it feels like the typical animated family film for the year 2006, and that makes me sad.