Director John Lasseter adds yet another winner to his impressive string of blockbuster hits with Cars, a vibrant, emotionally engaging, entertaining trip down memory lane courtesy of anthropomorphic cars. Stunning graphics and a first-rate voice cast infuse the adorable autos with real personality and set Cars apart from the recent slew of mediocre animated offerings.
Lasseter’s Cars is a touching homage to the bygone days of family road trips. Cars evokes memories of a time when one of the most popular ways to spend vacation days was to pack up the kids and travel leisurely around America, stopping in little out-of-the-way towns filled with friendly folks and spending quality time enjoying the wonders of life on the road. A nostalgic look back at small town America, Cars contains none of the real silliness of recent animated films (there aren't any talking animals anywhere to be seen in Cars, but there are a couple of fart jokes) and never fails to make each and every character come alive on the screen. The story follows Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), a rookie racing sensation whose life in the fast lane has left him little time for friends. On his way to what could possibly be the most important race in his young life, Lightning runs into some trouble with the law and finds himself forced to spend time in Radiator Springs, a tiny town located off of the legendary Route 66.
Life in Radiator Springs moves at a much slower pace than Lightning’s used to, and the citizens who make up the little blip on the map have nothing better to do with their time than to watch Lightning lay down blacktop and offer unsolicited advice on life. Among the cars who inhabit Radiator Springs are a 51 Hudson Hornet named Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), a pretty little Porsche (Bonnie Hunt), a low-rider who runs a body shop (Cheech Marin), Guido (Guido Quaroni) and Luigi (Tony Shalhoub) the tire store guys/Italian racing enthusiasts, and Mater the Tow Truck (Larry the Cable Guy) who considers himself Lightning McQueen’s new best friend.Cars is the first CGI creation from the talented crew at Pixar that doesn’t feature a world within our world. In the totally make-believe land of Cars, there’s nary a human in sight. The cars drive themselves, man gas stations and diners, and even hold down jobs as TV reporters. This is a universe created just for autos, by a director who was inspired to create the film while vacationing with his family and tooling around America.
It’s obvious Lasseter put his heart and soul into Cars. What he’s created, along with the rest of the crew and the incredible voice cast, is an incredibly sweet film bound to be one of those movies kids love to watch over and over and over on DVD. Even with the slightly long running time of 116 minutes, Cars keeps the attention of even the youngest audience members. I confess to having been a little worried about this particular Pixar film. The premise of Cars just didn’t sound that interesting and I’m not a fan of racing, so it was with more than a little trepidation that I sat through the screening of Disney and Pixar’s latest collaboration. For those of the same mindset, let me set your worries aside. You absolutely, positively do not have to be into watching cars circle a track to get into this nifty little feel-good film.Every voice fits and every scene works. From tractor tipping to the actual racing sequences to miniature Volkswagen Beetles flitting around windows like flies, Cars never hits a bump in the road. Even the soundtrack’s catchy. If it weren’t for the ridiculous price of gasoline, Cars is so charming it would probably inspire a whole new generation of families to hit the road on a quest to rediscover America.