You have to admire Pixar. The animation powerhouse definitely knows what it’s doing when it comes to constructing tightly crafted animated features that are just as much fun for adults as they are for kids.
Over the past decade the company, headed by John Lasseter, has continually and consistently proven itself with not only visually beautiful pieces of cinema but films filled with writing of the highest calibre.
Take a look at the number of people involved with the screenplay for Cars, their newest feature, and you’ll get some idea of how important a script is to these guys.
Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is a talented – but arrogant – race car on the fast track to becoming the first rookie ever to win the Piston Cup. Convinced he only needs himself to win – Lightning doesn’t have a pit crew – he is soon brought down to earth when he crashes (literally) into the sleepy town of Radiator Springs, just off the infamous Route 66. It’s here that he learns the true importance of friendship and family.
Yes, the premise may be slightly cheesy but if you examine any of Pixar’s other films you’ll see that there is nothing unique about the lesson learned in Cars. From Toy Story through to Finding Nemo , personal interaction and relationship based moral dilemmas are a staple of the Pixar formula and it works. Cars, however, while it mostly fulfils the Pixar checklist for making successful animated features, is not without its flaws.
As I watched Cars, I found myself unable to suspend my disbelief at certain points in the film. I found myself being kicked out of the screen world. I was able to suspend my disbelief in Monsters Inc. and in Toy Story but for some reason the idea of a world populated by cars and ruled by cars got me thinking too much. Matters weren’t helped when a car would hold a can of oil with his left rear-view mirror and I’d wonder how that can got there without him having any movable appendages. It may sound silly but it really bugged me and distracted me from the film. This only happened on one or two occasions but I realised that the process of anthropomorphising can only be taken so far.
That said, I soon got over my little pre-occupation, and I must say that the film visually is a stunner. The cars glean and glisten just like brand-new models under show-room lights and the sense of speed that is conveyed in the films opening and closing sequences really is praise worthy. I couldn’t help but think of Days of Thunder and I found myself amazed that I happened to be rooting for a car that had a big toothy grin in the place where its bumper should have been.
The soundtrack, together with music by Randy Newman, further heightened this experience. I still find myself singing bits of Life is a Highway in the shower weeks after having seen the film. Newman’s score is extremely diverse as he moves from fast driven race motifs to slow country and western influenced stylings.
Owen Wilson’s voice is immediately identifiable and his laid back vocal drawl suits the arrogance of Lightning McQueen. Stand up comic, Larry The Cable Guy, however, steals much of the show with his voicing of the not too bright and rusted tow truck Tow-Mater. A great deal of the films humour comes from his interaction with McQueen and his inability to perceive what’s happening around him as fast as the other cars do. The cow-tipping scene is brilliant.
Of all the Pixar films Cars is probably the least successful at what it does. The writing is top-notch but it somehow feels hollow at certain points and I did find myself questioning the world that had been constructed. It drags in the middle and is a tad too predictable but it’s a fun watch and that’s all it really has to be. Cars is by no means a failure it’s just not quite as good as Pixar’s previous efforts.