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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 11.11%
Average: 27.35%
Pretty Bad: 24.79%
Total Crap: 2.56%

9 reviews, 63 user ratings

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by Scott Weinberg

"Ironically, Pixar's Winning Streak Ends Here"
2 stars

Look, you won't find a much bigger Pixar fan than yours truly. I have their first six movies on a very special and separate DVD shelf, and I've lost count of how many times I've pulled down "The Incredibles" or "Finding Nemo" or the "Toy Stories" for a comfy re-visit. I think the Pixar team is made up of absolute geniuses, wizards, and master animators. I love these guys! All of which makes "Cars" so shockingly disappointing.

Throughout the course of their stellar six-movie run, Pixar has delivered top-of-the-line animated adventures that deliver three key ingredients every time out:

1. Unbelievably beautiful computer-generated animation.

2. Outrageously funny screenplays performed by very amusing actors.

3. Stunningly sincere and heartfelt doses of wit, warmth, love, and emotion.

In Cars I noticed the first ingredient the split-second the screen went dark ... and unfortunately I'm still waiting for #2 and #3.

Despite that fact that seven credited writers worked on the Cars story, the plot is nothing more than 1991's Doc Hollywood, only with cars instead of humans.

Owen Wilson is Lightning McQueen, up & coming racing superstar and, of course, a shamelessly self-centered and egotistical piece of machinery. After finishing an important race in a three-way tie with Chick Hicks (Michael Keaton) and The King (Richard Petty), Lightning is headed out west to participate in a tie-breaker race. Unfortunately, he gets lost along the way and ends up in a quaint little forgotten town called Radiator Springs, where a gaggle of colorful cars are just waiting for their hometown to experience a newfound popularity.

Lightning accidentally tears up the main Springs road, and is therefore compelled to stay in town until he's fixed all the damage. Meanwhile, he learns a whole lot about friendship, loyalty, caring, and the importance of automotive puns. (Suffice to say you won't need a road map to see where Cars is headed.)

So the story is simplistic and more than a little familiar (seriously, rent Doc Hollywood after seeing Cars and tell me if I'm insane), but that's not enough to throw Cars off-track entirely. It's that the Pixar gang seems so single-mindedly intent on pandering to the NASCAR crowd that they've jettisoned most of what made their movies so brilliant in the first place: Namely, the wit, the humor, the creativity, the character, and the pacing.

Before I start my belly-aching, let's get one thing out of the way right now: Animation-wise, Cars is absolutely stunning. From the eye-popping colors to the dry & dusty backgrounds, and pretty much everything in between, Cars is, I must admit, a massive feast for the eyeballs. Having said that, I must follow up with "so what?"

I've seen rock videos and toothpaste commercials that employ fantastic animation, but if there's nothing but a bunch of one-note characters and limp humor to anchor the visual end, what exactly are we celebrating? Movies need more than just visual splendor to keep me entertained, and I was stunningly disappointed to realize that, after only about 45 minutes, Cars was boring me to tears.

My theory on Pixar is that they've become stuck in a "menagerie mentality," what with Toys and Monsters and Fish and Bugs and Superheroes anchoring their classic films. Someone at the Pixar think-tank must have realized "Heck, we didn't do CARS yet!" -- and thus began the process of making a flick that'll sell a ton of toys (and probably tickle the NASCAR fans) without furthering the craft one iota.

It's all surface schtick, which is not at all what I expect from Pixar. Instead of the densely-layered and wonderfully complex characters found in Toy Story and Finding Nemo, here we get ... Owen Wilson speaking into a microphone. There's not even an attempt at characterization here; it's just Owen reading dialogue! The background characters are even worse: For no good reason (other than to stock the toy shelves, I suppose) we're treated to an entirely superfluous collection of car-acters like a stoned George Carlin van, a gruff army jeep (Paul Dooley), and a grumpy old veteran (Paul Newman) with an unsurprising secret. The featured sidekicks fare no better: Can someone explain to me why the (obviously very smart) people at Pixar thought it would be a good idea to have characters that could best be described as: 1. The Mexican one (Cheech Marin, natch) who bounces on his struts and paints other cars! 2. The African American auto (Jenifer Lewis) who's got a sassy "no you di'nt!" attitude! 3. The buck-toothed hayseed pick-up truck (Larry the Moron Guy) who's as loyal as he is stupid! 4. The Italian-accented tire seller (Tony Shalhoub) who makes Mario and Luigi look like realistic paisans!

Points for trying the diversity thing, but a handful of broad stereotypes is NOT what I expect from the Pixar writers. Compare the supporting characters in Cars with the ones found in Nemo or even A Bug's Life and you'll probably see what I mean.

One of the problems lies within the main "creatures" themselves. Try as hard as they might, the Pixar wizards can not breathe any anthropomorphic life into a bunch of toy cars. Sure, their mouths move to the words, but their eyeballs are dead, vacant, dolls' eyes. They're actually a little bit creepy once the novelty wears off.

And the flick just ambles and rambles for 112 redundant minutes. Sorry to say that Cars is not particularly warm or witty or insightful or funny, and when you compare these notes with what I've written about every other Pixar flick under the sun, well, obviously I consider this one a pretty large disappointment across the board.

Yes, the animation might very well represent the new gold standard in CGI wizardry ... but I don't think it's unreasonable of me to expect a little more from the Pixar team by now. This entry feels like it was massaged together on auto-pilot, its creators well aware that they'd have a massive hit on their hands either way. "Cars" is the first Pixar flick I'd describe as "cynical," and that, frankly, breaks my heart just a little bit.

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originally posted: 06/10/06 00:41:35
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell good not great 4 stars
3/23/15 Jerry Spray zzzzzzzzzzzzz....huh? OH! Did I just sleep through "Cars"? Go figure. 2 stars
10/19/11 Magic The second worst Pixar movie is still a Pixar movie. Nostalgic and gives warm fuzzies. 4 stars
6/15/11 My apples are rotting A tad underrated. Not aclassic but entertaining 4 stars
10/23/09 Rachel This is a favorite in our household. Cute and has a good message. 5 stars
1/14/09 Anonymous. it's cute and funny, like most other animated movies. :] 4 stars
9/14/08 Samantha Pruitt not as good as the other Pixar movies, still kind of funny 4 stars
7/19/08 Shaun Wallner I love this movie, great for the whole family 5 stars
7/06/08 John Millheim the kids loved it, I did too,the animation was great 5 stars
1/23/08 Chase My dad and I watched it and we both thought it was hilarious, but had a good plot. 5 stars
1/08/08 Steve Aside from official remakes I've never seen a movie that mirrors another so closely. 3 stars
8/11/07 dragongirl Really cool movie! Good charas, especially Doc was rocks! Well the hero ain't bad either! 5 stars
7/07/07 AnnieG Characters are bad role models for kids - best parts were for the F1 fans 3 stars
5/25/07 sultryHobbit Like my girlfriend: cute, beautiful, but slow and predictable. 3 stars
2/13/07 druggas great movie with a good moral to the story. I watch it every night. 5 stars
2/07/07 Randall J. Paltza There's nothing "cynical" about CARS. If it imitates Doc H, I'm glad I saw CARS instead! 5 stars
2/02/07 bkjohnston Teaching all of us that some things are more important than winning is NOT preachy. 5 stars
1/27/07 David Cohen Still a heck of a lot better than anything Disney is producing these days 3 stars
1/21/07 David A. Cute for kids, but it gets pretty preachy. 2 stars
1/07/07 Stu If the critics want deep, watch usual suspects. This is a kids film my 4 year old loved! 5 stars
1/07/07 Disappointing for a Pixar,last 20min saves the movie. Seen Doc H, I agree with the comment! 3 stars
12/24/06 Tessa it's ok 3 stars
12/15/06 Lloyd Loved it! Will watch it over and over and over again! 5 stars
12/07/06 Lou Perez Loved it! This movie has a much deeper Story than you think, if you can see it! 5 stars
11/25/06 Dave T. Very clever...after the first viewing. 5 stars
11/22/06 Chris realized 3 days later when thinking about nothing that it reminded me of Doc H-wood 2 stars
11/21/06 Mohammad I think you missed the goal of "Cars." It's a tribute to car-nuts like me - we love it! 5 stars
11/10/06 Charles Tatum Beautiful to look at, but drags...get it, drags?! 4 stars
11/04/06 becky one of the best disney movies yet 5 stars
9/27/06 Cruzia Wonderfull graphic, awesome story, you'll dissappointed by not watching it !!! 5 stars
9/25/06 Lisa Craven Loved the animation and story line. Enjoyable dialogue and characters. 5 stars
9/03/06 Christopher Stucky Eventually, Pixar has to make a bad one. This isn't it yet. 5 stars
8/24/06 Chad Thomas Best animated movie of the year! Classic Pixar. 5 stars
8/18/06 Heather Marie Any requests?!! 5 stars
8/17/06 Pn. A feast for my PC & Pixel soaked brainstem. Will not be as good on second viewing... 5 stars
8/17/06 Mary Beth great animation, enjoyable, surprised at low ratings 4 stars
8/14/06 Sharon yea I took my little 5 year old brother and he hated it! 1 stars
8/06/06 Robyn Awesome Film!!! 5 stars
8/06/06 Erik Van Sant The first 'bad' Pixar film. Even that is better than most of the shit offered this summer. 3 stars
8/05/06 Gaogaigar I was disappointed with this Pixar picture- dozed off somewhere in Radiator Springs! 3 stars
7/26/06 Quigley A good but not great Pixar movie. stunning visuals; and ya gotta love Mater 4 stars
7/10/06 Sarah Love it. Brilliant animation. In opposition to a few blunt ratings, it was incredibly witty 4 stars
7/01/06 Christopher Didn't like the previews but this is a really great movie. Bonnie Hunt's vocals were great. 5 stars
7/01/06 Gerry Irons Boring and Disappointing. Slow story with overly simple charactors and story 3 stars
6/28/06 PAG Solid, but not great, film. Larry The Cable Guy was pretty funny. 3 stars
6/25/06 Mase Sorely lacking something all pixar films had has to this point, a sense of adventure. 3 stars
6/23/06 orpament torture, even with my son 1 stars
6/20/06 Agent Sands Fantastic and substantial. Greatly stimulant of emotions. 5 stars
6/20/06 JLo It was great, better than Gigli, that's for sure! 5 stars
6/19/06 John Aster Habig What the hell is this crap? Since when does scrap metal relate to us as human beings? 1 stars
6/16/06 ES Better than bug's life and moster's inc. 4 stars
6/14/06 tjpeterson AWESOME, don't know these other people watched, son loved it,will be the 1st to buy on DVD! 5 stars
6/13/06 KingNeutron Critics too harsh on this one; I laughed, I cried; looks Awesome. (But I havnt seen Doc H.) 4 stars
6/12/06 bullit16 I would watch any Pixar movie any time. Except this one. 4 stars
6/12/06 ajay loved all the other pixar movies for the great story/characters. this falls *way* short. 2 stars
6/12/06 Pokejedservo Take it as the great old-fashioned storyline as it is. This isn't new age at all... 5 stars
6/12/06 Joe This movie was GREAT! funny, good story, who saw Doc Hollywood anyway? 5 stars
6/11/06 katsat Good but not great. Needed MORE anthropomorphism for audience to relate to. Great visuals. 4 stars
6/11/06 San Lamar it was ok 3 stars
6/11/06 Koitus GREAT intro-short; MUST STAY for the credits. The rest = Eh? Agree with Doc H-Wood cmnts. 3 stars
6/11/06 MickOZ ANAMATION IS FOR KIDS UNDER 10! that said my 5 year old liked it. 5 stars
6/10/06 Adrian I definetely got my hopes way too up. Aside from the visuals, it's totally boring. 2 stars
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  09-Jun-2006 (G)
  DVD: 07-Nov-2006

  28-Jul-2006 (PG)

  08-Jun-2006 (G)

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