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Cars (2006)

Ahhh... it's got that new movie smell.

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 117 minutes

US Certificate: G UK Certificate: PG


I suppose it’s a disservice to a company that’s produced some of the best films of the last two decades (Toy Story, WALL-E, Finding Nemo) to automatically compare every new project to its high points. But when you’re an entity like Pixar, standards are high, and fair or not, if you don’t produce up to the bar you’ve set for yourself, you’re gonna get pointed at. That’s Cars; had it been from any other animation house, things would have been different, but it’s not, and while the animation itself is still of the highest quality, the film itself lacks in all the areas that made its predecessors the classics they are.

Cars begins with a race for the coveted Piston Cup Championship, but when the race ends in a three-way tie that must be decided in a tiebreaker race, rookie hotshot Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) gets his celebrate on—and winds up damaging the road in an off-the-map little town called Radiator Springs. Sentenced to repair the damage he inflicted, Lightning meets a lot of new friends along the way—a hot Porsche named Sally (Bonnie Hunt), a redneck tow-truck named Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), a wise old judge named Do (Paul Newman)—and begins to realize that, even as a hotrod, life’s better sometimes when you can slow down a bit.

Maybe it goes without saying, but the animation is top of the line. Other than that, though, Cars is pretty unremarkable. Kids will like it, but unlike most other kiddie fare, it should’ve been more than just a kid’s film, because we know it could’ve been. It helps to watch some of the Special Features about director John Lasseter and see just how much passion he had for this project, but that doesn’t give the film itself any of the wit and heart it’s missing. Some of the jokes are crude, most aren’t that funny, and most of the characters just aren’t engaging (did we need Larry the Cable Guy as a rusty truck version of his comedy act?). The story itself is old hat, and it’s been done better by Pixar themselves. Nothing sets this film apart from its counterparts, which makes it seem even less inspired. One thing, though—NASCAR fans will enjoy the in-jokes and references to their favorite sport, and the appearance of lots of racing folk in cameo voices adds some much needed fun.

It's Got: Superb animation, Paul Newman, Appeal for kids.

It Needs: Better characters, less Larry the Cable Guy.

DVD Extras Four Deleted Scenes (storyboards); Epilogue; Two Pixar Shorts: "One Man Band" and "Mater and the Ghostlight," "Inspiration for Cars". DVD Extras Rating: 5/10


An OK diversion for the kids, Cars has a fantastic animation department but lacks when it comes to story and heart.