1 item from 2006
It might not be way up there in "The Incredibles"/"Finding Nemo"/"Toy Story" stratosphere, but the charming "Cars" is nevertheless a thoroughly pleasant way to mark Pixar Animation Studios' 20th anniversary.
While the other guys are still hawking talking animals, the folks at Pixar continue to up the anthropomorphic ante with terrific characters and crowd-pleasing storytelling that are as much a part of the company's much-deserved success as all that state-of-the-art technology.
Although the latest model -- concerning a hotshot hot rod who takes an unanticipated detour from life in the fast lane -- takes a little while to achieve traction, it ultimately hits all the key emotional and comedic checkpoints.
Given a fan base that spans virtually all demographics, "Cars" will handily take first place in its opening weekend and is destined to emerge as one of the season's biggest performers.
After spending the past seven years in an executive producer capacity, John Lasseter logs his first directing credit since 1999's "Toy Story 2" with this soulful road picture about a cocky rookie race car (voiced by Owen Wilson) who is en route to the Piston Cup Championship in California when an unfortunate chain of events lands him smack dab in the sleepy Route 66 town of Radiator Springs.
To make matters worse, Lightning McQueen has quickly succeeded in raising the ire of the local judge, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), who won't allow him to leave until he makes amends for tearing up the town's main street.
But before the repairs are done, he finds himself drawn to Radiator Springs' once-thriving past and its colorful denizens, particularly the knowing Sally Carrera (Bonnie Hunt), a sporty 2002 Porsche and former Los Angeles lawyer who drove off one day in search of a more meaningful life; and the sweet-natured Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), a good ol' boy, bucktoothed tow truck.
By the time McQueen gets back on track, he finds his priorities have been seriously realigned.
Maybe it has something to do with that sleepy rural vibe, or a running time that creeps up on the two-hour mark, but whatever the reason, the picture's pacing hits some potholes during its extended sojourn in Radiator Springs.
For those accustomed to smoother Pixar rides, the shifts in rhythm might be a tad too noticeable, but Lasseter, who also penned the script along with Dan Fogelman, the late Joe Ranft, Kiel Murray & Phil Lorin and Jorgen Klubien, still manages to cross the finish line in style.
You can't miss with that dream team of a voice cast, which, in addition to Wilson, Newman, Hunt and an irresistible turn by comedian Larry the Cable Guy that turns scene stealing into grand theft, includes George Carlin as Fillmore, a hippie dippy VW bus, Tony Shalhoub as Luigi, an emotional '59 Fiat and Michael Keaton as Chick Hicks, McQueen's ruthless competitor.
Then there's the eye-popping technology which once again outdoes itself, breaking fresh ground with extensive ray tracing that provides photo-realistic reflections in all that polished metal and chrome, not to mention those striking, dusty Route 66 vistas.
Those who stay until the end of the credits will be rewarded with a hilarious tribute to Pixar lucky charm John Ratzenberger (who marks his seventh collaboration here as a not-so-trusty transport truck) as well as a touching one to Pixar animator Ranft, who passed away in August.
Settling the score, meanwhile, is Randy Newman, whose fourth Pixar collaboration ambles along agreeably, accompanied by drivin' tunes performed by Rascal Flatts, Sheryl Crow and Brad Paisley that are perfect for coasting along those alternate routes.
A Walt Disney Pictures presentation of a Pixar Animation Studios film
Credits: Director: John Lasseter; Co-director: Joe Ranft; Producer: Darla K. Anderson; Screenwriters: Dan Fogelman, John Lasseter, Joe Ranft, Kiel Murray & Phil Lorin, Jorgen Klubien; Story: John Lasseter, Joe Ranft, Jorgen Klubien; Editor: Ken Schretzmann; Music: Randy Newman. Voice cast: Lightning McQueen: Owen Wilson; Doc Hudson; Paul Newman; Sally Carrera: Bonnie Hunt; Mater: Larry The Cable Guy; Ramone: Cheech Marin; Luigi: Tony Shalhoub; Guido: Guido Quaroni; Flo: Jenifer Lewis; Sarge: Paul Dooley; The Sheriff: Michael Wallis; Fillmore: George Carlin; Lizzie: Katherine Helmond; Mack: John Ratzenberger; Chick Hicks: Michael Keaton; The King: Richard Petty.
MPAA rating G, running time 116 minutes. »
1 item from 2006
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