Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"Let's hope that Pixar hasn't run out of gas."

Pixar changed the face of Cartoon City with their groundbreaking CGI animation and became synonymous with excellence. Now, for the first time, they have slipped on a diesel spill. Cars creates a collection of sentimental, stereotypical characters, who have nothing to recommend them except the dubious satisfaction of feeling safe in the arms of an American cliche.

It's about good ole fashioned values, nostalgia and regression versus fame, corporate sponsorship and winning at all costs. No prizes for spotting the analogy between Ike's Fifties and George Dubya's Noughties. There's even a whiff of Frank Capra in there somewhere, as well as Oliver Stone on the go-get team.

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When the gutsy rookie on the race car circuit, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson on vocals) comes adrift from his transporter, en route to California for The Piston Cup race-off with his two closest rivals, he finds himself lost and arrested in the two-bit nothing town of Radiator Springs, where, like the millionaire's son who falls overboard from an ocean liner and is picked up by Portuguese fishermen in Captains Courageous (1937), he learns what's important in life, not simply what's important to him.

Radiator Springs used to be a thriving community when the main east/west highway passed through. Now, since they built a four-lane freeway that avoids the town by a crow's mile, they have become rusty and forgotten. But the pride is still there and that's what Lightning McQueen sparks in the clogged carburettors of the resident vehicles.

The characters - all cars, of course - range from battered old timers, with spit-baccy accents, to the sweet-natured love interest, whose innocence reflects the spirit of the place - honest, hard working, down-home and friendly. They might as well be boilin' corncobs for breakfast, lunch and tea, because that's what's coming through, hot and strong.

Compared to the genius of Toy Story and The Incredibles, Cars lacks decent jokes. Its buttery sugar-coating ensures a pleasant ride, but there are no seagulls chorusing "Mine!", as in Finding Nemo, nor a triple act to match Sully, Wazowski and Boo from Monsters Inc.

Let's hope that Pixar hasn't run out of gas. Will someone fix them with solar so that energy levels never dip this low again?

Reviewed on: 27 Jul 2006
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A rookie racing car learns humility and down-home values in a rusty old town as Pixar's CGI animators wipe away a tear.
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Director: John Lasseter, Joe Ranft

Writer: Dan Fogelman, John Lasseter, Joe Ranft, Kiel Murray, Phil Lorin, Jorgen Klubien

Starring: voices of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry The Cable Guy, Cheech Marin, Tony Shalhoub, Guido Guaroni, Jenifer Lewis, Paul Dooley, George Carlin, Katherine Helmond, Michael Keaton, Jeremy Piven, Michael Schumacher, Jay Leno

Year: 2006

Runtime: 121 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US


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