Worth A Look: 11.11%
Pretty Bad: 24.79%
Total Crap: 2.56%
9 reviews, 63 user ratings
by Scott Weinberg
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:
"Ironically, Pixar's Winning Streak Ends Here"
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.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=14707&reviewer=128
originally posted: 06/10/06 00:41:35
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