I really don’t like this film very much. I know I am probably having far too high expectations for a Pixar movie, but they have set their bar at a certain level and Cars just doesn’t reach it. It doesn’t help that I just don’t find cars that interesting, I never have. I earn my masculinity points by watching sports, I just can’t find any interest in cars and how they function.
I’ve tried watching this movie three or four times and rarely have I got through to the end. The film revolves around the arrogant rookie race car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson). He is favourite to win his first racing title and hopes to join a new racing team when their experienced driver retires next year. He has to get to a race in California but ends up stranded in a po dunk town called Radiator Springs. When he is ordered to repair their roads he destroyed, he must get the job done quickly in order to make it to his championship race. He eventually learns some important lessons about friendship and loyalty.
This film just doesn’t do it for me. I laughed two or three times throughout the film, but most of the humour is too kid friendly. I know that this is a kids film, but that was always where Pixar separated themselves from other animated movies. They were able to make films that were enjoyable for the whole family, not just the kids. Every Pixar film has managed to be entertaining for people of all ages, this one just doesn’t reach those heights expected of Pixar.
It’s hard to give this a bad rating because it does entertain its target market, but I expect more from Pixar. This film never reaches the heights that other Pixar films like Toy Story, Finding Nemo or The Incredibles hits. Cars is a major letdown from a film company with an otherwise superb track record.
Sometimes I feel like the biggest Cars apologist on the planet. I know a lot of people who don’t like this movie, mostly because it stars anthropomorphized motor vehicles and is a merchandizing gold mine. But really, how is this that much different than talking animals or all the princess paraphernalia in stores? It’s not. This movie is just aimed more at boys, but has a great story that can appeal to anyone.
One thing I really liked about Cars is that there isn’t a villain. Yes, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) has rivals he’s up against in races, but they’re not the driving antagonists of the movie. The forces working against our four wheeled friends are much more ambiguous. They are the march of progress, the increased pace of contemporary life, and the forgotten romance of the open road.
The bulk of the story takes place in Radiator Springs, a small town on old Route 66. The town is slowly dying, with only a few of it’s original inhabitants and business owners clinging to the hope of new customers rolling their way. Radiator Springs’ citizens are from a bygone era, one where the journey was just as important as the destination. Cars drove for fun, not just to get from point A to point B. But the world around them changed, and they were eventually forgotten when the interstate bypassed their town in order to shave 10 minutes off the drive.
I don’t know, the story just speaks to me. This has a lot to do with the fact that I grew up in a small town that is slowly dying. It’s the same small town my grandfather grew up in. When he was young there was a movie theater and high school in town, which I always thought was impossible given its size. But then, when I was a kid the town boasted at least two restaurants, a florist, and two video rental stores. These are all gone now. The last time my dad visited he described the place as a ghost town, which made my sister and I laugh because it wasn’t exactly booming when we lived there. But when she and I visited about a year later we understood what our dad meant. The town was noticeably quieter. There were properties for sale with little hope of being sold. A senior class photo from our old high school had maybe 20 students in it– half what my graduating class would have been only a decade earlier. The population is skewing older and older, because there isn’t much there for young families.
Maybe I’m just hoping that a human version of Lightning McQueen will come along and save my little Radiator Springs. Or maybe this is just a bit of nostalgia for my youth. Either way, I think Cars deserves another chance. It’s definitely not Pixar’s best, but it deserves more respect than it gets. (Cars 2, on the other hand, deserves all the chagrin it gets.)