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CARS

Review by Michael Jacobson

Voices:  Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Richard Petty, Michael Keaton, Cheech Marin, George Carlin, Tony Shalhoub
Director:  John Lasseter
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features:  See Review
Studio:  Disney/Pixar
Length:  118 Minutes
Release Date:  November 7, 2006

“Well, dip me in axle grease and call me Slick!”

Film ***

Am I getting too old to let my imagination run as free at the movies as it used to?  I watched Disney and Pixar’s latest computer animated offering Cars, and enjoyed it.  It’s a funny, sweet story with a tremendous visual flair…but I couldn’t get over that the characters were, all in fact, cars.

It was kind of weird to me.  Cars racing around the tracks are one thing, but cars as spectators?  Cars running the pit crews?  Car sponsors and car agents?  And a possible love story between cars?  I guess I was just always slightly on the wrong side of suspending my disbelief.  I could have enjoyed it a lot more if I could have just let myself get caught up in the world the way director John Lasseter presented it.

But that aside, I still liked it.  There was enough charm, humor and flair to keep me zooming forward despite my own speed bumps.  I can’t say that it will take its place alongside the other studio’s classics like Toy Story or Finding Nemo, or their towering achievement The Incredibles.  But one need only look at some of the computer animated offerings from rival studios over the years and how bland and lifeless they seem by comparison to realize one thing:  there’s only one Disney.  And only one Pixar.

As a fan, I was glad to see the two giants back together after a near parting of the ways.  Maybe each studio could have gone forward without the other, but you gotta admit, when they work together, they create magic.

In this film, I don’t know whether it’s the tremendous look or the inspired voice casting that does it for me.  Each Pixar offering seems sleeker, more realistic in detail and more colorful than ever before.  Their films are the ones that head each chapter in the continuing book on computer animated features.  Even peopled with cars, their worlds are more real than just about anything else you can sink yourself into.

But then those voices really take it further.  Owen Wilson as the hot-headed rookie racer Lightning McQueen, Bonnie Hunt as the lovely Porsche Sally, the legendary Richard Petty and Michael Keaton as rival racers…all divine.  But the two most memorable and ingenious touches were Paul Newman as Doc Hudson, an old car with a few tricks up his spare tire, and Larry the Cable Guy as the rundown tow truck Mater.  One is regal, the other hilarious…a perfect match.

When Lightning McQueen gets lost on his way to a big race in California, he ends up off Route 66 in a little Podunk town called Radiator Springs.  He gets into a little scrape there (get it?), and the town judge, Doc, orders him to fix the road.  And how, pray tell, does a car fix a road?  Sorry…there I go again.

He also meets Sally, who traded in life in the big city for a quieter scene, and the happy-go-lucky Mater, who has a penchant for fun and tractor-tipping (you gotta see it to believe it).  Their town was once a happening place before the freeways took the cars speeding straight by.  Now no one comes anymore.  And Lightning wants out and back to his spotlight faster than you can say STP.

But Lightning has a few things to learn about the important things in life…namely, having real friends, learning to help one another out and accept help himself, and how it’s important to just slow down every once in a while.  Even if you’re a race car.

Lasseter and company have delivered a fine offering and quality entertainment…you can’t blame them if it’s not quite up to usual specifications.  You still get more bang for your buck in a year when Disney and Pixar release a computer animated film that from all other studios’ animated offerings combined.  Kids may appreciate the idea of the anthropomorphic cars a little more than I did, but hey, that’s just my hang-up.

One thing’s for sure…you may never look at your own car quite the same way again.

Video ****

This anamorphic transfer is a complete knockout…Disney and Pixar have produced some of the best looking DVDs on the market, but they’ve outdone themselves here.  With a rich palate of colors, incredible detail and crispness, and amazingly 3-D looking cars, this will rank amongst the highest quality video offerings you’ve seen.

Audio ****

Likewise, the 5.1 soundtrack is pure thunder.  The racing scenes will have your subwoofer rumbling and the rear stage will keep you centered in the action.  Dynamic range is strong throughout, dialogue is very clear, and the soundtrack with songs by Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, Chuck Berry and Rascal Flatts will have you humming like a souped up hot rod!

Features **

Not a whole lot this time around…there are two amusing Pixar shorts (one starring Mater), four deleted scenes, and a bit of John Lasseter talking about his inspiration for the movie.

Summary:

Cars is fast, funny fun for the whole family.  Disney and Pixar didn’t quite take the checkered flag this time around, but they’re still the cup leaders by far.

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