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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 brianorndorf

"Pixar has run out of gas"
3 stars

Pixar’s tendency to aggressively repeat their formula pops the tires on “Cars.” Strikingly made, with attention to vista detail that will make your jaw drop, the rest of the film seems wasted on such beautiful animation. Tired screenwriting and an uncharacteristic appearance of fart jokes are only the start of the misery to be found in this wholly uninspired CG feature.

A darling of a NASCAR-like racing circuit, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) dreams of the day he can soundly beat rival Chick Hicks (Michael Keaton) to win fame and the treasured endorsement deals he craves. Traveling across Route 66 on his way to California for the important Piston Cup race, Lightning makes a critical error in judgment and ends up accidentally destroying the main street of forgotten town Radiator Springs. When the judge and town patriarch Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) sentences Lightning to repave the road, he finds both resentment (Bonnie Hunt, Tony Shalhoub, Cheech Marin) and enthusiastic help (Larry The Cable Guy, George Carlin) from the locals.

Pixar has mutated over the years into a brand name of excellence. You can’t argue with their box office track record, but I’ve always felt you could have a hearty debate on the actual quality of their films. Pixar often gets a free pass from audiences when it comes to screenwriting anemia simply because, hey, they make family films, so lay off! However, “Cars” is a picture with a level of lethargy and lack of resourcefulness that shouldn’t be ignored. It’s a friendly film, but not a terribly engaging or memorable one.

Certainly the one component to a Pixar production that cannot be refuted is the crystalline beauty of the visuals. “Cars” is another step in the progression of the company as they get closer to photo-real animation while also retaining the all-important cartoon element. The world of cars presented here is stupendous in its detail and creativity, lending reality to a comical microcosm of automobiles who act and emote like humans. These characters glisten, rumble, and glide just like the real deal, and if the story can’t pull you in, there’s a colorful widescreen world to behold that’s astonishing.

And don’t even get me started on the landscape animation. When it’s not put to more broad use, it looks and feels like the real thing. You can almost smell the crisp air blowing slowly through the mountains as Lightning speeds his way to California. Outstanding.

Because “Cars” is such a richly animated film, it pains me to see the story not meet the same standard. Essentially, if you’ve seen one Pixar film, you’ve seen them all. Outside of interchangeable subjects (Toys! Bugs! Fish!), the scripting is always the same: Hero is comfortable, Hero is fallen, Hero learns lessons about himself, and Hero returns to save the day. “Cars” follows the template slavishly, even when the picture is undoubtedly bursting to do something more with itself. Actual fun is in suspiciously short supply here.

Beloved director John Lasseter (“Toy Story” and Pixar overlord) wearyingly leans on the formula to get him through the film, and the story continually grinds to a halt. “Cars” is a smaller scale picture to begin with, and clinging to this formula exacerbates the sludgy pace, especially when the script starts to mount subplots it can’t manage to fruition - most glaringly in the relationship between Lightning and the elder statesman Doc. While Doc is introduced as the Obi-Wan figure in Lightning’s life, Lasseter doesn’t do much to weave him into the younger car’s reason for growth. When it comes time to pay off the importance of their friendship, the magic is markedly absent.

The true test of Lasseter’s desperation to salvage some sense of merriment? He employs fart noises to goose the gags, which has become the “shooting fish in a barrel” moment of any family film. Perhaps Pixar knew “Cars” wasn’t coming together amusingly enough if they’re stooping that low to get the kids on their side.

The NASCAR flavoring of the film is an interesting choice by Lasseter, a well-known car fanatic. While the sport has fans far and wide, it might also limit the potential audience for filmgoers who are turned off by all things Talladega, and wouldn’t know who Jeff Gordon was if he walked up and said, “Hey. I’m Jeff Gordon. I drive fast cars.”

“Cars” has lots of inside jokes (NPR’s indispensable “Car Talk” brothers show up as Lightning’s sponsors), NASCAR cameos, and general four-wheeled monkey business. The affection for vehicles certainly lends the film an identity, but also limits the entertainment value; there are only so many jokes you can make with automobiles. Thankfully, Lasseter gets one right: an Italian tire salesman who dreams of one day finding a Ferrari customer, and constantly frets over his business. Energetically voiced by Tony Shalhoub (with a full-on “mama-mia!” accent), he’s the one piece of the picture that’s legitimately funny and acts in unexpected comedic ways.

Lasseter should be handed a medal of honor for the ability to make Larry The Cable Guy actually endearing during “Cars,” but the whole enterprise is lacking critical invention and exhilaration to keep it revving forward.

2004’s dazzling “Incredibles” promised Pixar was growing up and willing to try new things. “Cars” is incontrovertible proof that promise was not kept.

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originally posted: 06/09/06 14:35:11
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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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