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This review is from: Cars [DVD] (2006) (DVD)
Brash and arrogant rookie stockcar racer Lightning McQueen (a typically laconic Owen Wilson), gets lost on route to a championship race in California and winds up in sleepy backwater town Radiator Springs. The town's residents, including a seemingly bad tempered old time racer Doc (a gruff Paul Newman), peppy Porsche Sally (Bonnie Hunt) and simple but innocent tow-truck Mater (Larry The Cable Guy), help the young charge learn `valuable life lessons' and the importance of community and friendship.
Pixar have ruled the roost on the animated movie market for the best part of a decade now, but with the likes of Monster House, Over the Hedge and Ice Age 2 jostling for a slice of this lucrative pie, is Pixar's latest number one on this years starting grid?
To set your mind at rest, Cars is great fun. It's funny, good natured and displays, in each frame, bundles of imagination that once again puts many live action movies to shame. John Lasseter sets out his stall early on, commencing with a thrilling racing sequence that introduces McQueen and his familiar neon lit world via a stunning set piece before relocating to the broken down confines of forgotten town, Radiator Springs.
Radiator Springs itself is the kind of gentile town that's often remembered with hazy nods to 60's Americana and its inhabitants are struggling to relive the glory days. When Lightning arrives in town causing a whole heap of damage along the way they see it as a reminder of better times and the young hot rod gets a glimpse of what he is missing from his pampered lifestyle. The pace slows drastically through the town sequences and the film itself stutters, suffering from the fact that a movie centred more on the racing rather than Car's well intentioned `message' would be far more exciting. Sure, Mater and McQueen have fun Tractor Tipping and the Father/Son relationship between Doc and the racer is subtle if a little threadbare. Although lovingly realised (particularly Mater and the firm kids favourite Luigi), there's no dynamism between the leads that compares to Woody/ Buzz, Marlin/Dory and Mike/Sully.
Watching Cars is like having your eyes massaged with marshmallows, put simply, it looks amazing. It's easily the most stunningly created animated feature around, giving a big toon-sized slap in the face to the motion captured likes of Polar Express or the stylised Tex Avery-like Madagascar. Just check out the reflections on the (ahem) cars bonnets, the mini-van insects, the rolling contours of the landscape surrounding Radiator Springs or indeed the sheer scale of the Motor Races themselves. It's just that the story itself is a little pedestrian, the familiar fish out of water scenario settling into an amble before culminating in the anticipated race off finale.
Cars is a magnificent technical achievement, raising the bar once more, and it does have a whole load of heart however, despite all the wax and polish, it stalls just a tad when compared to Pixar's previous output. It's still a good way better than any of its nearest rivals but is missing that little special ingredient `X' that made Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles such a fun experience. The dewy eyed ode to Route 66 may be lost on European viewers and the attempt to anthropomorphise vehicles by making the windscreens into eyes and bumpers/grills into mouths is perhaps a risky emotional-response misfire. But if you are going to question why, if there are no people, do cars need doors? Or how do they reproduce? Or even why there is no sign of pollution then it's clear that you're taking things a little too seriously.
As always, ensure you stay for the end credit gag sequence. Trust me you'll laugh till your sides hurt.