It is really amazing that Pixar is able to set the bar for animation higher with each new feature. They already set the bar pretty high with movies like Toy Story 1 and 2, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles but Cars definitely represents a new high in computer animation in movies. As always, the high-quality animation is in support of an interesting and familiar story where lessons are learned and imparted.
Lightning McQueen is a brash and proud race car who has burst onto the racing scene and is on track to become the first rookie to win the Piston Cup. When the race ends in a 3-way tie, Lightning and the other 2 cars have to drive in a tie-breaker race in California. But Lightning gets lost on the way to California and ends up in a town called Radiator Springs. It is a ghost town that lost its tourists when a new freeway opened up and among its residents, Lightning learns a few things.
As far as environments go, Finding Nemo was spectacular as it took us down to the depths of the ocean. But it was easy to let imagination run wild with the colorful sea-life. In Cars, the action is all above the ground in an environment we are familiar with. So realism is more difficult. The filmmakers have also taken a risk by selecting the dry, unexciting deserts (rather than, say, colorful fields or lush scenery that is more eye-catching) to set the action in. But the locales are gorgeous and brown has never looked more beautiful. The scenery when Lightning and Sally go on their drive and the bird’s-eye views we get of the entire land are spectacular.
But it is not just the big stuff that is good. There is a lot to see and admire in even the smallest aspects and a lot of attention has been paid to detail. The way the shadows on the ground or the telephone wires or the scenery pass by while driving is recreated very realistically. The huge audience made up of cars (they even do the ‘wave’!), the whoosh as the race cars race by and the scattering of the cracked asphalt make the races realistic. And the rear lights always come on when the cars back up!
Past the animation, the film goes down the same path as other Pixar films. There are the usual jokes got out of modifying familiar items so they relate to automobiles (like the Jay Limo show, a Lug Nut Drive exit on the freeway, etc.). There are lessons learned by the haughty race car as he experiences life in the slow lane.
The film actually seems aimed at adults more than kids. It clocks in at almost 2 hours, which is definitely more than the amount of time the young ones stay interested in 1 thing. There is also not enough fast action or slapstick comedy aimed at the kids. The scenes where a car ends up with a tree on its roof or the tire-changer shows up with a bright hat are the ones where Kavya laughed loudest but those kinds of scenes don’t occur too often. So I had to artificially induce excitement or humor in ordinary scenes to keep her interest. On the bright side, there are no real sad scenes either (except for the ones where the cars topple over and that’s not as sad as cute animals being caged!) and so Kavya didn’t end up crying.
Cars – definitely worth the ride.