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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 EricDSnider

"The American automotive industry takes another hit."
3 stars

"Cars" is the longest Pixar movie so far, probably the least engaging, and certainly the least funny. And yet somehow it's still better than two-thirds of the movies I've seen this year. Some of the Pixar magic may have been misdirected on this project, but these guys probably couldn't make a bad movie if they wanted to. I'm surprised they can even make a so-so one.

The film is set in a world where there are no humans or animals, only automobiles. At the nation's NASCAR-style arenas, thousands of cars gather to cheer as others of their species strut their stuff -- the equivalent of humans going to a track-and-field competition, I suppose. Cars named Bob Cutlass and Darrell Cartrip (voiced by Bob Costas and Darrell Waltrip, of course) give the play-by-play.

Among the top racers is Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), a cocky newcomer who downplays his pit crew's contributions and loves nothing more than being photographed by the press. Overdue for a life lesson, natch, he gets stranded in the Route 66 desert town of Radiator Springs while on his way to a major race in California. He tears up the tiny town's only road in his recklessness and is ordered by the local judge, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), to repair it before he can leave.

Ah, the city slicker stuck in a small town who comes to love the locals and re-examine his selfish ways: If there's a more time-honored premise, I can't think of it. I'd like to say it gets a fresh Pixarian twist, but it really doesn't. Lightning falls for a local Porsche named Sally (Bonnie Hunt), befriends a dumb tow truck (Larry the Cable Guy), and eventually sets out to help the dying, off-the-interstate town revitalize itself.

The usual Pixar whimsy is in the details. A sleazy out-of-town restaurant advertises "convertible waitresses." Instead of bugs crawling around, they have tiny VW Bugs with wings. Lightning is embarrassed that his major racing sponsor is Rusteze Medicated Bumper Ointment -- hemorrhoid cream, in other words. The film's depiction of his rusty, backwoods fans is particularly amusing. (Also: You MUST stay through the closing credits.)

So what's the problem? It's hard to feel affection for the characters. They're machines. Pixar films have often attributed human qualities to non-human things -- fish, monsters, bugs, toys -- but at least they were biological creatures (or, in the case of "Toy Story," playthings in the shape of biological creatures). Cars are just cars. Even with eyes on their windshields and front grilles that look like mouths, and despite having personalities and ambitions and quirks, they're still just machines.

I wonder if it was a mistake to create a world so far removed from reality. Notice how the previous Pixar movies have involved humans, tangentially if not directly. "Finding Nemo" and "Monsters Inc." were actually ABOUT their characters' interactions with people, and of course the heroes of "The Incredibles" were actual humans. But in "Cars," people don't even exist. Everything is mechanical, even the "animals." (In rural towns, instead of cow-tipping, the kids go tractor-tipping.) It's imaginative, but it creates an emotional chasm: Even the craziest sci-fi movies with the most whacked-out ideas usually have, if not actual Earthlings, beings who could be mistaken for Earthlings.

The film is also very devoted to its nostalgia for old cars and the cachet of Route 66, sentiments that much of the audience won't share. (The question, "How many times can one movie feature the song 'Route 66'?" becomes relevant, too.) Making unusual, specific situations feel universal has been Pixar's strength -- remember how you cried in "Toy Story 2" when Sarah MacLachlan sang about a toy's sadness at being discarded by her owner? -- but the plight of Radiator Springs and Lightning McQueen's personal journey never really hit home.

I find myself liking the film, and admiring much of it -- the animation technology becomes more stunning every year -- but not loving it. John Lasseter, Pixar's top guy and the director of the "Toy Storys" and "A Bug's Life," is at the helm, and the writers are qualified. I don't know what happened to prevent "Cars" from being an instant classic like its predecessors were.

Yep, here I am, complaining that a movie is merely "good" instead of "mind-blowingly awesome." But hey, Pixar set the bar. Maybe they should take Dreamworks' cue and make a few lousy movies now and then, just to make the good ones seem better.

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originally posted: 06/09/06 17:40:09
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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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