To celebrate Independence Day, I finally caught up with "Cars," a fairly great Pixar flick that loses a little gas in the middle before finishing with a flourish (I'll try to drop the racing lingo now, but I make no promises).
The first thing to mention about any Pixar movie is how it looks, and this one sets a whole new standard. "Cars" co-director John Lasseter (who shares credit for "Cars" with the late Joe Ranft) always pops up to introduce those great Miyazaki movies released on DVD thanks to the largesse of Disney (I believe). For the first time, he seems to have learned from the Japanese master for his own work.
(A brief digression before I continue. If you are a fan of animated movies and are unfamiliar with Miyazaki, get thee to a video store (or Web site) immediately. I'd recommend starting with "Kiki's Delivery Service," but my personal favorite is "Porco Rosso.")
Ok, I'm back on track, I think. Miyazaki's influence is most noticable after our hero Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) runs afoul of the law in the small town of Radiator Springs. The desert vistas look like a beautiful painting, and though I doubt there's a waterfall that wondrous anywhere along Route 66, it's also a joy to behold. The races that bookend the story are also a load of fun.
And most of the cars, despite of course only having limited facial features, have plenty of personality. Paul Newman's aging "Hudson Hornet" named Doc is just cool, and Bonnie Hunt (who finally has movie she won't have to be ashamed of) works as the sultry Porsche Sally Carrera. Even Larry the Cable Guy is fairly funny as Mater the tow truck, though I'm sure glad my mechanic doesn't talk like that.
However, do we really need Cheech Marin as a low-rider with a loud paint job or George Carlin as, here's a stretch, a hippie VW bus? All those big brains at Pixar, and that's the best you can do? Sheesh.
But as a unit, the cars, and the town they inhabit, are quite charming. So what's my beef with the middle of "Cars"? The lesson.
Why is it that movies for children always have to have a lesson? Don't kids have the right to simply be entertained? As "Cars" starts to impart its wisdom - which, without revealing too much, pretty much boils down to slow down to smell the roses and get by with a little help from your friends - the story grounds to a halt.
"Cars" clocks in at just under two hours. I can't imagine being 5 years old and sitting through the 45 minutes or so of "lesson time" in the middle of this one, and several of the younguns indeed had to be led out of the theater multiple times.
But, overall, I liked "Cars," mostly for its innovative look and the charming town of Radiator Springs.
Maybe if I loved cars more I would have unconditional love for "Cars." As it is, I drive a 1998 Honda Civic I bought from my parents for $1,000 under the Kelly Blue Book value, and it's the snazziest ride I've ever had.
For me, my car is simply a means to an end. If I've learned anything at all from my ride its that few things are more important in life than a great mechanic. Mine, the irreplacable Bob Tyson, has a habit of scolding me when I don't know that my check engine light is on because my fuel filter is filthy and something called a heat sensor needs to be replaced.
I know nothing about cars, but he does, and he shares his knowledge with me for a very fair price. Get a good mechanic. Now there's a valuable lesson to impart, but probably one that will go over the heads of the target audience for "Cars."
Now, if you'll excuse me, Italy and Germany are about to kick off in the first 2006 World Cup semifinal. I'm hoping for a German rout of those diving Azzurri, and a Germany-France final this Sunday. Viva futbol!
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Posted by Reel Fanatic at 2:33 PM