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Cars (PG)

Posted by Hunter on Mon, 14 Aug 2006.


Starring: Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry The Cable Guy, Cheech Marin, George Carlin, Michael Keaton

Pixars latest release, being shown on digital at Leicester Freeman’s Odeon cinema, highlights just how far computer animation has become. The opening sequence thunders with gritty realism, with the asphalt of the circuit looking just like it should, and the car tyres shedding as the racers bank along the sweeping curves. The Director, John Lasseter, has a well known love of cars, and what with enlisting the help of legend Paul Newman, the key is attention to detail.

The story is a well known formula along the lines of Michael J Fox’s “Doc Hollywood” (or even Cuba Gooding Jnr’s, “Snowdogs”), and centres around the egocentric race car “Lightning McQueen” (voiced by Owen Wilson), finding himself in a three-way tie for the all important “Piston” championship. A tiebreaker is set for the next weekend in California between the twilight legend “The King” (voiced by racing legend Richard Petty), the unpopular “Chick Hicks” (Michael Keaton), and the crowds new favourite, “young gun” McQueen.

In his rush to get to the tie-breaker McQueen gets lost and stuck in the forgotten desert town of Radiator Springs, along the infamous Route 66. In true Doc Hollywood style we see a “fish out of water” scenario where McQueen unwittingly destroys the road through Radiator Springs and whilst putting things right, finds winning and egotism aren't everything. Paul Newman plays the mentor role as the “Hudson Hornet”, in a town that McQueen tries to escape from a couple of times, but which predictably grows on him. If you want to see if McQueen finds himself and what’s really important then you’ll have to watch the film for yourself.

The film will no doubt be hugely entertaining for younger audiences, and that does pose a problem for older viewers. Pixar have entirely dispensed with human beings and ask the audience to suspend belief for it’s “just under 2hours” duration and accept cars acting as people on the big screen. So we see cars of various types filling the stands to watch races, or acting as journalists or managers/publicists (Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson making a cameo role), even the panoramic desert landscapes are actually in the shapes of old 50’s car hoods and Cadillac tail fins. This disconnect world can therefore be in danger of alienating the audiences.

In paying a great deal of attention to the cars themselves, it does seem Lasseter has forgotten about the human element, and we are left with some rather two dimensional characters that tick all of the stereotypical boxes, and a script that doesn’t really hit the comedy high points of earlier ventures such as “Toy Story”. All in all, probably a good film for younger people to watch, but for older audiences possibly not so great.

We would like to thank Terry at the Odeon cinema at Freeman's Common.