Tuesday, July 04, 2006


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!


Cheyenne said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. It was a nice surprise. I'll be sure to check in on yours quite often.
I have no idea why Pirates didn't open on the 4th; the only thing I can think of is they wanted a Friday opening. Not sure how these premieres work so I am just guessing.

J.D. said...

I really enjoyed Cars. I dunno, I guess to each his own, but I didn't really find it to be all that draggy in the middle. I mean, yeah, it got a bit preachy, but I thought the story was quite meaty, and I didn't notice any kids in the theater losing interest.

By the way, I only JUST saw your comment on my Lewis Grizzard post. Thanks :)

carrie_lofty said...

Two hours? I'm really gonna have to save that one for a rental. My girls can't get through more than about 30 minutes without their attention straying. They've seen Madagascar three times now and only in this most recent viewing did they finish the thing. But.... they're three years old. I would be a little upset if TV was that captivating at their age!! Thanks for the heads-up.

Reel Fanatic said...

If they haven't seen Over the Hedge, Salome, I would definitely recommend that one instead .. just much more entertaining

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themarina said...

I was very impressed with the animation but that was about it. I didn't really enjoy the story and even I was pining to escape for a few minutes but I stuck it out.

Andreia said...

As a mother of four young kids, I can tell you that the lesson is not for the kids. You see, the young kids simply miss the moral tale. Its more about giving the parents a sense that they have done something good for the kids. It makes the pain of the ticket price and goodies all the more bearable

Our bill for Cars including snacks: 52 buckaroos.

Reel Fanatic said...

The best thing theater owners can do to keep our business, Andreia, is to bring back ushers, but a close second is lowering the friggin concession stand prices!

William K. Scurry Jr. said...

There needs to be more exhortations for people to Netflix the Miyazaki ouvre rather than give money to "Cars," and "Ant-Bully."

resigned idealist said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog, thus leading me to your site! I've read through a few reviews here already and I like your perspectives.

I hadn't made the Miyazaki connection with Cars, but now, I can see it in the panoramas... maybe a little in the supporting cast as well.

I'll have to dig through your site to find a review of Porco Rosso and see why it's your favorite.

I'll drop in again soon.

Reel Fanatic said...

You're welcome to dig through the archives here, of course, resigned idealist, but you won't find a review of Porco Rosso .. here's the brief breakdown .. it's just a very straightforward about a typically interesing Miyazaki (a fighter pilot who is cursed to be a pig because of an act of cowardace) .. he redeems, sort of, of course, but along the way there's just great flying sequences and all the great things you would expect from Miyazaki

Sunil said...

Porco Rosso is one of my fav Miyazaki films as well.....though I like Princess Mononoke better.

Good stuff.....I still haven't seen cars, but intend to do so soon.

Reel Fanatic said...

I enjoyed Princess Mononoke as well, Sunil, but found the plot to be awfully convoluted, despite the beautiful visuals

Joe Powell said...

Hey RF -

had to drop by for a read after your stop at my place for a cup of joe.

i've been an anime fan and Miyazaki fan for years, but only saw "Porco Rosso" recently on Turner Classic Movies with Lassiter's intro - and it blew me away.

somehow it's a genuine love letter to the old Howard Hawk adction films, a snappy comedy, and a beautiful example of art and cinema all in one.

i also notice you link to the Whedonesque site, so more points on the good taste.

glad to see i'm not the only film fanatic out in the blog land.

i'm planning to see "Cars" soon, but if you haven't seen the following Great Car movies allow me to suggest these - "Two-Lane Blacktop", Monte Hellman directs a nearly wordless match between a 55 Chevy and a yellow GTO with James Taylor, Brian Wilson and Warren Oates; or just crank up the volume and enjoy the jazz soundtrack or the throaty roar of Steve McQueen's Mustang in "Bullit"; and while many folks have watched "American Graffiti" for the nostalgia, watch it again and see how George Lucas' camera just makes love to all the cars onscreen- they are the real stars of the movie.

Reel Fanatic said...

Welcome, Joe Powell .. I've seen and loved Bullit and American Graffiti, but not Two Lane Blacktop .. I'll be checking that one out soon!

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