June 9, 2006

Movie Review: Cars

Posted in Movies at 8:05 pm by Calico Jack


(Copyright Disney/Pixar) 

Okay, I have to get this out of the way first: Cars could be considered by some to be Pixar's "sophomore slump." However, that's only when you grade on a sliding scale; and it's a pretty darn good record for a movie studio that has lovingly and carefully produced such classics as Toy Story and The Incredibles…seven times in a row. And it goes without saying that even though this may be the most deliberate and slow-moving of Pixar's masterpieces, it is still better than pretty much any other animated film I've seen in the past two years.

I think movie reviews are the most boring when critics spend the first third of their allotted space recapping the storyline for the two or three readers who have no idea about what the film could possibly be. And honestly, this is the most derivative and predictable plot that Pixar's given us so far. Having said that, what does work in this film works wonderfully. As a technical achievement, Cars is breathtaking. I sat through much of the movie simply admiring the visual details that are present in every level of this movie, from the oh-so-perfect reflections off of the cars' body paint to the stunning landscapes that almost made me forget I was looking at an animated film. I've traveled on Route 66, and Cars nails the scenery that surrounds America's highway. In so many ways, this is a piece of visual art, and it far surpasses any other animated film I've seen.

What also works are all of the references to real-life automobiles. The characters in Cars do not exist in their own bland, generic world. There are accurate (although stylized) depictions of everything from Porsches to Ferraris to Hondas to classic Hudsons. And true to Pixar fashion, there is a veritable orgy of inside jokes that touch on everything from car politics to celebrity culture to other Pixar films. I grinned quite a few times during this movie, and laughed out loud almost as much. Contrast that with Over the Hedge, which made me smile and not much more.

However, one of this movie's strengths is also one of its weaknesses. The story simply isn't up to par with the rest of Pixar's films. There isn't the same sense of wonder and excitement present throughout The Incredibles or Finding Nemo. By comparison, Cars is almost plodding in its leisurely, meandering storyline. This works to an extent, but after a captivating first twenty minutes, it feels like a bit of a letdown as we wind our way through a lot of exposition about "the good old days." There are a few scenes in particular that didn't service the plot at all, and at a running time of almost two hours there isn't much room for extraneousness. However, the plot picks up in its last half hour and leads to a rousing finish.

Still, what redeems Cars from being a better-than-average formula movie is its heart. This is not a soulless animated film like Ice Age or even Over the Hedge. The attention to detail is everywhere; one can almost sense the love that went into making every single gorgeous frame. And the strongest recommendation I can give is that halfway through the movie, I stopped thinking that this was a movie about cars and started thinking that this was a movie about characters. And just like the rest of Pixar's films, Cars overcomes its conceit to provide the audience with a movie that, in the end, stimulates the imagination like few other studios can. It isn't quite up to the gold standards set by some of Pixar's other films, but it is an excellent silver, and as such rates a well-recommended B+.

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2 Comments »

  1. […] You know note for note how things are going to play out. But if you take the movie's message to heart, then it won't matter because like most trips, you know where you're going, but it's the getting there that's often makes it worthwhile. I think a lot of the critics can't see the forest for the trees on this one as they're all harping on it's predictability and forgetting that a lot of genre movies are, but what separates the cream from the no-fat milk is in how well they get made. Many have praised "Cars" for its technical achievements. But Ignorant Critics saw something else that appealed to him: […]

  2. Shay said,

    ahh! You didn’t like Over the Hedge!!! I loved that movie! It’s one of my favorites! Granted if it werent’ for the squirrel it would have been that great and the plot wasn’t anything original, but I thought it was hillarious.


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