movie film review | chris tookey


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  Cars Review
Tookey's Rating
6 /10
Average Rating
6.58 /10
Voices:, Lightning McQueen: Owen Wilson
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Directed by: John Lasseter
Written by: Dan Fogelman, John Lasseter, Joe Ranft, Kiel Murray, Phil Lorin and Jorgen Klubien. Based on the story by Lasseter, Joe Ranft and Jorgen Klubien

Released: 2006
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 118

Cars is the latest animated blockbuster from Pixar, and itís as colourful, confident and child-friendly as the classics in their back catalogue Ė most notably The Incredibles and the Toy Story movies. It will rake in huge profits at the box office and through merchandising. Small boys, especially, will respond instinctively to its makersí unalloyed love of the automobile.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Where its performance falls short is in the script department, which certainly doesnít spark on all cylinders. It has taken no fewer than six writers to engineer a story thatís nearly identical to Doc Hollywood , an old crock from 1991, starring Michael J. Fox. Itís also curiously similar to the other big animated feature of the summer so far, Over The Hedge, in that it tells the story of a flashy, self-centred loner who comes to appreciate the need for family, local community and teamwork.

Clocking in at two minutes under two hours, the film feels much too long. Cuts could certainly have been made to the opening 20 minutes of car-racing, which are noisy and repetitive, with far too much dialogue thatís inaudible.

When you can hear whatís going on, good jokes are depressingly few, and the scenes where our racing-car hero converses with his agent Harv (horribly miscast and played, in the British version, by Jeremy Clarkson) could usefully have been reparked on the cutting-room floor.

That ever-enthusiastic guysí guy Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers) is ideally cast as the voice of over-confident rookie racing-car Lightning McQueen. He is on his way to compete in LA but accidentally rolls out of his trailer and finds himself in the ramshackle, no-horse town Radiator Springs.

Here, he meets a set of lovable locals who teach him life lessons about how winning is not the most important thing in life, the importance of friendship, etc. Paul Newman shines as the gruff, curmudgeonly ďDocĒ, who resents the young carís arrogance at the start, but eventually takes Lightning under his wing mirror.

I was less sure about the love interest, a shiny Porsche played by Bonnie Hunt with an American accent (shouldnít she be German?) Children may not be bothered, but adults may find themselves wondering how cars can mate without denting each other. Are exhaust pipes involved? Giving cars a sex life is somewhere between twee and unsavoury.

Director John Lasseter came up with the idea for Cars when his wife insisted he take a long break from film-making, and go on a tour across America with his family. Here, he took in the pleasures of living in the slow lane Ė which, naturally, gave him the idea of returning to the fast lane in order to praise it.

Unfortunately, thereís an over-earnestness in the way he puts his big idea across. He and his co-writers could have used wit and irony. Instead, they adopt a hectoring tone reminiscent of those telly evangelists who preach humility and anti-consumerism while salting away millions in their private bank accounts.

Even Randy Newmanís score is over-emphatic, laying on the Aaron Copland Americana so strong, that I kept wanting to turn the volume down.

Frank Capra was the King of this kind of film-making, making classics such as Itís a Wonderful Life and Mr Smith Goes to Washington, which contrasted city slickers with homespun, small-town American values. His critics accused him of making Capra-corn. Lasseterís mistake is to keep the corn and jettison the Capra.

When a family film is this anxious to be moral, shouldnít it take on board the reservations many people feel about cars as a form of travel? The movie inhabits an environment inhabited entirely by automobiles (even the flies are tiny cars with wings), but whereís the pollution? This movie isnít just in love with gas-guzzling, it presents it as a civic duty, as natural as breathing.

Few, if any, of these reservations will affect the enjoyment of young children, at whom this movie is unashamedly aimed. But they do help to make this less a family film than a kidsí movie, which for Pixar is a huge step backwards.

Cars is, despite its entertainment value, a disappointment. Its preachiness is at the expense of both pace and humour. Itís brash and aggressive when its predecessors have been content to be enchanting. The far from original screenplay has been soldered together from a scrap-heap of over-familiar concepts.

Where earlier Pixar creations were inspired, this one is awfully, and to me off-puttingly, mechanical.

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