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I had my doubts. I knew that Pixar would fail this time around. No way
were they going to pull this off for a seventh time.
I was very, very wrong.
I went to see a special screening of "Cars" a few weeks ago, and this movie blew me away. The animation is gorgeous, the story brings a smile to your face, and you can't help falling in love with all of the colorful characters. It definitely has that genuine Pixar "heart" that you rarely see in any other CGI film. At first I thought the movie would be centered around a lot of NASCAR-like racing, but it really wasn't, much to my surprise (and pleasure). This movie is definite Pixar gold. I absolutely loved it.
Although I don't want to give any spoilers away, I will say that my favorite scene would have to be when Mater drags McQueen out to do a bit of "Tractor Tipping". The whole theater was filled with laughter. Heck, it even got some laughs out of me, which is rare when it comes to a kid's movie.
Be there on opening night. This is movie is worth all of your time and money.
But WHY is it great?
1. Visually. From the very first moments of the film, my mouth was hanging open. I mean, what the hell? Nothing looks this good. I have no idea how they made the cars look so much like real cars, and STILL make them look so much like characters. And the settings? Having grown up and traveled all over the South West United States (including more than one pilgrimage down Route 66) They captured, not only the visuals, but the atmosphere and character America's Main Street Perfectly. Frankly, if you put real actors in many of the scenes, you wouldn't realize it was computer generated you know, if the landscape wasn't made up of old car parts.
2. Creativity. Talking animals. Every cartoon HAS to have talking animals. Only so many cartoons can be about talking animals trying to bamboozle around with humans. Thank goodness for Cars. They create an entirely believable world populated by machines, with tractor cows, and somehow they still have George Jones and Hendrix. The story IS quite predictable, but it's still quite creative. With this level of creative juice flowing in one of John's babies, I can't wait to see what he has in store for further feature animation and theme parks.
3. Characters. I have a beef with Hollywood. They have no idea what life in a small town is like. They either try and stuff their ideals and attitude into a western shirt, or else fill America's heartland with dolts, "we don't like outsiders" sheriffs, or crazed murderers. Thankfully, Pixar did their homework and featured small town folk as they really are: eclectic, eccentric, loyal, creative with their fun, friendly with visitors, and really worth while. The subtle touches, such as the lovable rivalry between the Hippie van and the Army truck, or the crazy old Model T talking to the memorial of her dead husband (very touching), gives a complex and wonderfully, realistically diverse view off small town life. The same is true with the racing world. Wilson and Newman are, of course, fantastic. It's funny how the gravel in Newman's voice fits perfectly with the rumble of his engine, likewise Wilson's distinct voice sounds just like the high-tuned growl of a race car. Every voice is so paired. Bottom line, you leave loving virtually every character in the movie.
4. Story. A little bit A Christmas Carol, a little bit The Sting. The story starts out fast and exciting, like the race it portrayed. The big second act meanders lazily from one fantastic story point to the next, just like Route 66 drives from one landmark to another. I can see why some may say it can get slow, but, as is one of the points of the story, the joy is in the ride. And again, the third act flows quickly and furiously like, well, another race.
I give it a score of 10 out of 10. I can't wait to see it again.
"Cars didn't ride on it to make great time; they rode on it to have a
It's not hard to make a successful movie. It's simple, really. Exceed my expectations. Make me feel. Force me to care. Deliver a somewhat clichéd message, but deliver it in such a way that the meaning resounds. Teach me the same lessons that your characters learn. And above all, entertain.
Pretty easy, right? Well, at least Pixar makes it look that way because with Cars they have once again succeeded.
I'll be honest; I had my doubts about the movie. How would they be able to take a story featuring nothing but vehicles, with nary a human in sight, and keep my interest for a full two hours? Animals are one thing, but could Pixar successfully master the personification of modes of transportation?
Yes, they could, and they did.
Thanks to Director Lasseter's strong attention to detail, going so far as to insist that the vehicles bend and gesture in ways that were true to their construction, every car and truck truly becomes a unique character and personality. And along with those characters and personalities comes a story which yes, contains a well-traveled theme, but it comes with so much charm that even Grouchy McKilljoy's hard little heart can't help but be warmed.
Don't worry if you're not a racing fan; I assure you it's not a requirement to enjoy the movie. I love watching muscle cars race the quarter mile (ask me about my '69 Camaro), but NASCAR doesn't do it for me. That's another aspect about the film that gave me pause. I once fell asleep at a NASCAR qualifying race, despite the 90-degree heat and ear-splitting decibel levels, so would Cars keep me awake and interested? Within five minutes my worries began to slowly subside as I happily settled in for the ride.
Animation should be about bringing imagination to life. Give us something that can't be done in live action. Cars does this so effectively that it almost seems a redundancy to comment on how Pixar continues to raise the CGI bar. The scenery on screen is awe-inducing to the point that it's getting harder to distinguish the real from the created. The filmmakers have gone so far as to perfect reflections in the cars and to pay careful attention to weeds growing out of cracks in the sidewalk. I don't see any way you could not be visually stunned.
But impressive visuals are little comfort if I'm not presented with a story that I care to follow. No problems there. If you're the kind of person who loves to go "awwwww" at movies then prepare to be satisfied. What I appreciate the most is that, at the risk of causing some youngsters to become restless, time and attention has been given to character and story development. Lasseter and his team stood their ground and resisted any pressure to trim this to a runtime more suitable to those with limited attention spans, and I thank them for it.
As I said earlier, Cars hit the starting line with a disadvantage. I didn't greet it with a warm smile. I crossed my arms, furrowed my brow, and dared it to prove my preconceived notions wrong.
It proceeded to exceed my expectations. It made me feel for its characters and forced me to care about McQueen's journey, both to California and to a different viewpoint on life. Sure, the "slow down and enjoy the scenery" message may seem a little routine, but it's a message I took to heart.
Immediately following the movie I was on the Internet looking up information regarding Route 66. I'm now ready for a road trip void of interstates and efforts to beat my best time. I feel like slowing down a bit and exploring the unknown. Give me the scenic route, and give me more finely-tuned, detailed movies like Cars. That's all I ask. Two hours of entertainment that make me care, even if briefly, about something other than myself and what goal has to be accomplished next.
See? It was simple, really. At least Pixar made it look that way.
I saw this film on May 31st, 2006 in Indianapolis. I am one of the
judges for the Heartland Film Festival's Truly Moving Picture Award. A
Truly Moving Picture "
explores the human journey by artistically
expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life." Heartland
gave that award to this film.
The most famous streak in sports is probably Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak. The most famous hit streak in film entertainment is probably Pixar's feature film animation streak. With "Cars", it's seven in row for outstanding storytelling that is well executed and is (or will be) rewarded with blockbuster box office grosses. "Toy Story", "Toy Story 2", "Monsters, Inc.", "Finding Nemo", "The Incredibles", and "A Bug's Life" are the other six gems.
The story is about Lightning McQueen a rookie NASCAR-type racer. Of course, he is a car and not a human; or, he is a human in the form of the car. Take your pick. Either way, he is not an attractive persona. He is selfish, unappreciative, greedy, two-faced and has no real friends. But, he is a great driver and is tied for The Piston (read Winston) Cup annual championship with two other drivers. On the way to the runoff race in California, he accidentally gets off in a sleepy and forgotten town on Route 66 named Radiator Springs.
In this hillbilly hell of a town, he is punished for speeding and tearing up the road by the sheriff. As he serves his sentence with community work, he discovers the town is inhabited by rejects and misfits, who all have hearts of gold. Can they change Lightning and make him over to have positive traits like honesty, integrity, respect, honor, sacrifice, humility, and compassion? That's the drama that unfolds. Lightning is a hard case, and the outcome is always in doubt.
The cars/people are incredible. Shortly into the movie you forget that the people are cars or the cars are people, you suspend disbelief, and you just begin to watch an engaging story about real people. The windshields are their eyes, and the grilles are their mouths, and they display emotions as well as any human actor. The story is serious and light-hearted at the same time. The puns are too numerous to catch. And this is a must-see-twice-to-get-it-all movie.
FYI There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
I thought the story looked very lame from previews, and the concept didn't appeal to me. But when I saw an early screening I was surprised, it was well written and well executed. They didn't overload the movie with automotive jokes, which I think would have hurt the story and character development. Owen Wilson's voice is great for his role. Overall, it's on par with other Pixar films, even if it may not be their best so far. The animation is superb, definitely the best they've done. Giving something like cars distinct personality and characterization seems like it would be pretty tough, and they do a great job with it. See this movie the day it opens.
I went to the premier of "Cars" last night at the Lowe's Motor Speedway
in Concorde and was delighted to find that the hours of traffic were
The story has a clear point and the message of friendship is easily understood by kids and adults alike. The variety of humor suits all generations, too, making this the first "summer must see" for the family.
Being an artist I was struck by the vibrancy of the animation. The colors were rich and beautiful, and there was such diverse vocal talent that the entire experience made it a treat for the crowd's eyes and ears. I've never been to a movie with more than a few hundred people in the theater, but let me assure you that all 30,000+ attendees at the Speedway last night applauded during the credits and for some very, very good reasons.
Without giving away any of the story, here's my take. I attended the premiere of CARS at LMS on Friday, May 26. True to Disney form, the premiere itself was spectacular. Four giant screens, live entertainment,lots of fireworks, great inclusion of military personnel, and as good of a red carpet as you can do with chain link fenced areas... This movie rates right in the middle of Pixar releases for me. I place it above Monsters Inc, A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2, but not as good as the "original", the best ever, Toy Story, and The Incredibles. Everything just looks so real in this movie. The dust stirred up when Lightning drives off, the scenery around Route 66 (well, maybe not those mountains that look like the fins of old cars). Even the shine on the clean cars looks so real. As an adult, I enjoyed the story line. I can't tell you how the kids would like it, as by the time the movie finally started, my kids were asleep. As always, don't leave your seat until all of the credits roll. Sometimes they are some of the funniest clips in the movie! You'll love them this time, as they tie back to prior Pixar movies, in a car sort of way. This is definitely a movie we'll add to the DVD collection. I really hope this movie does well since it's the first release since Disney bought Pixar. Don't go in looking for the action or adult humor of The Incredibles. If you do you'll be disappointed. Just go in looking for the "Disney always has a good moral behind its animated movies" type of movie and you will really enjoy it. Paul Newman and Larry the Cable Guy really have the best characters in the movie. And while John Ratzenberger's character doesn't have a lot of screen time, I really enjoyed him! I'll be going back to see it when it releases in theaters so I can get a better feel for the sound, as it wasn't the best in an outdoor setting. In my opinion, it easily beats the other animated movies released over the past year or so.
As usual, you've gotta hand it to Pixar.
In "Cars," their latest film, they show why they are still the cream of the crop when it comes to the field they revolutionized more than a decade ago. Well, yeah, it doesn't have the sophistication and cleverness of "The Incredibles," nor the universal appeal of both "Toy Stories" and "Finding Nemo." And I have to admit that the idea of animated cars was the least riveting as far as Pixar film premises are concerned. But as with its predecessors, beneath those excellently rendered 3D images is the soul that sets Pixar apart from what has become of most animated films nowadays.
Up-and-coming rookie race car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), is about to win the prestigious Piston Cup. The championship ends with Lightning finishing in a tie with legendary "The King" (Richard Petty), who is in his final race, and Chick Hicks (Michael Keaton); thus, a tie-breaking race is set in California.
But a road mishap leads Lightning to the forgotten town of Radiator Springs, a part of what was once Route 66, a place that once basked in glory, but has since been thrust into oblivion. There he meets an array of other cars - including Doc Hudson (Paul Newman!), Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), and Sally (Bonnie Hunt) - who teach him that "life isn't about the destination but about the journey."
First of all, Pixar's animation is first-rate. It's that sort of greatness among their artists I can only geek about and dream of grasping while in my 3D animation classes. The cars have a definite realistic look, especially with the rendering (man, the reflections!). The film is also vibrantly colored, making use of a whole variety of shades of dark colors during the race, and warm ones whenever the scenes shift to Radiator Springs. Even the old, vintage car models have that chic look that brings some of the essential charm of this film. There are lots to be admired on this film just for the brilliance in animation. But among those that stand out are the race itself, and when Doc Hudson gets to bring back his good old days. Somehow, it's like watching NASCAR on IMAX again, albeit minus the über-big screen and the 3-D effect.
But what's really nice about this film is how director John Lasseter and the writers effectively tell the story and how they pump up the visual feast with humor and sincere emotions. It still all boils down to the story and how it is told - the very essence of cinema. Granted, when it comes to the standards set by previous Pixar films, it isn't quite up there with it's predecessors; but considering how lofty the bar has reached and the mediocrity that has become of the genre in general, "Cars" more than gets the job done.
As for the voice cast, Wilson brings that sort of cockiness to the protagonist of the story and it fits with his smug humor. Larry the Cable Guy gives Mater an amusingly disoriented state without being irritatingly so. You can't help but care about him and arguably, he's the nicest member of the cast. Newman lends an authoritative quality to Doc Hudson. (During the end credits, there's an in-joke about John Ratzenberger, who has his voice featured in all Pixar films thus far.) However, ultimately, the cast is somewhat unmemorable and lacking in diversity. The rest of the voice talents are also underused. Keaton's Chick Hicks is a formulaic one-dimensional villain, which could have utilized his voice more with a little more motivation for the car's part. But then again, that may be beside the movie's point.
All in all, "Cars" is a visual feast outside and an effective storytelling inside. When it comes to the basis of their appeal, it doesn't keep up with the rest of Pixar films which have sped up far ahead and this may yet be their first underachiever. But for what it is and what it achieves, it's a nice ride.
I was able to attend a premiere showing of this movie in North Carolina
and was amazed again at how much more a movie can be than just
"animation." This film focuses on a changed reality, a world where cars
are the only life form and so we must suspend our own reality to enjoy
this film. In the same flavor as the first Pixar films, we quickly
accept a world where everything is a motorized vehicle that lives and
acts like we do in our own world. The cars have experiences in life,
desires that drive (sorry for that) them, and misunderstandings that
are taken advantage of.
My wife and I loved this movie and plan to see it again when it is in public release. I cherished all the nuances of the film and the attention to detail not seen in animations from other companies.
For fans of all ages, this film is for you.
Caught the world premiere at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte-- we're not race fans ourselves by any means, but you really don't have to be to get on the road with this one. We were privvy to a couple inside jokes, living amongst the racing atmosphere that IS Charlotte, but even if we hadn't gotten that extra little chuckle, there's definitely plenty to find. Not just for kids. Kids will like the cute characters, and bright colors, adults will like it simply because it's just plain entertaining without having to dumb down to appeal to kids. You'll find yourself wanting to find the next twisty backroad to get to your next destination. Watch for all kids of cameo's, and it's too bad IMDb doesn't include a picture of the animated character as well-- it's not always easy to remember what the names are once you get home. Owen's good, Newman is classic, if a little flat (I applaud him for just plain staying active and leaving his house!), but it's really Larry the Cable Guy's movie-- newfound appreciation for that one-- and "tow-mater" is a multi-layered pun. Not only on the fact that he's a tow truck, but also his "they call me tater salad" bit-- Overall, highly entertaining, just try not to speed too much on the way home....
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