Reviewed by: David Criswell, Ph.D.
|Featuring:||Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Cheech Marin, Larry the Cable Guy|
|Distributor:||Buena Vista Pictures|
“Ahhh… it’s got that new movie smell.”
Also, see our review of the sequel to this film, Cars (2011).
Walt Disney once held a monopoly on animated family flicks, but the death of Disney led to a long drought until “The Little Mermaid” appeared to resurrect the Disney franchise. However, after “The Lion King”, a series of failures left Disney waning until its partnership with Pixar studios. This, along with the intrusion of Dreamworks into animated motion pictures, made it appear as if the era of great animated family movies had finally returned. However, as with any successful enterprise, the appearance of various similar movies created some drawbacks. The first was the increasing number of inferior animated movies. The second was the increasing number of copycat movies. Finally, third was the attempt to appeal to adults by adding crude humor that is inappropriate for children. So how does “Cars” fit into this picture?
“Cars” is the first movie by Pixar studios since its reunion with Disney and features the now standard computer-generated animation. It is good fun, but not on the same level with Pixar’s “Toy Story” 1 and 2 or “The Incredibles”. It is certainly better than “A Bug’s Life” and comparable to “Monster’s Inc.” I place it behind “Over the Hedge” as this year’s second best animated film, but there is little doubt it will out perform “Over the Hedge” at the box office, due to Pixar’s reputation for great family films. Let us hope that Disney’s buy-out of Pixar does not end a great run of movies for Pixar.
The plot revolves around anthropomorphic cars. One race car, “Lightning McQueen,” is a particularly selfish “one man show” who desires only to win and does not believe in teamwork, but in crossing the country to get to the racing finals he gets lost and winds up in an old rundown town on Route 66. There he encounters different cars from all walks of life. There is a broken down Tow truck, a sporty Porsche, a foreign car, and an old “has been” car whose glory days have long passed. Soon Lightning learns that there is more to life than winning.
Fans will also be treated to an animated short entitled “One Man Band” which is cute, fun, and brief.
“Cars” stars the voice-acting of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry “The Cable Guy,” Cheech Marin, George Carlin, and John Ratzenberger. All are effective, although I admit that I have never understood why animated films triple their budgets simply to have the voices of big name stars. Sometimes a particular actor may bring something to the character that is otherwise missing, and sometimes the animation is even designed to mimic the actors, but more often than not, people will not even recognize all the actor’s voices. Still, Owen Wilson and Paul Newman, in particular, did a great job.
“Cars” is definitely original, so fans will not be watching the same movie they saw last week or even last year. As to the moral content, there is no real violence, although cars are shown screaming during a massive car wreck. The appearance of crude humor is another matter. Although not as much as in most other animated films of late, there are numerous jokes involving rear ends, “bolts,” the passing of gas (quite a few times), and a scene where oil is shown running down a car’s nose. In one scene a car is shown with a bumper sticker reading “Nice Butte,” but the worst line in when Lightning is talking about winning the “Piston Cup.” Immediately another car replies, “He did what in his cup?” This is probably the most suggestive line in the movie.
Despite these jokes, the movie does carry a G-rating, and it is mild by comparison to most films. Many of the jokes mentioned above may go right over kids heads with the exception of the “piston” joke which drew many laughs from children as well as adults.
With these reservations in mind, “Cars” is a good animated film with some lessons for the young. Ultimately, it suggests that we should take life a little slower. We should slow down and enjoy life, rather than racing through it. At times, the movie is very effective in promoting this theme. Other times, not so much.
One line from the movie which is worth remembering is when the Porsche explains why her town on Route 66 became abandoned. After showing how the new highway cut through the mountains instead of crossing between them, she says of Route 66, “Cars didn’t drive on it to make great time, but to have a great time.” It took longer to get through the mountains, but they were able to enjoy the sweeping landscapes and scenery. More importantly, they were able to enjoy each other. Without spoiling the ending, Lightning learns that there are things more important than winning, and a surprise ending shows that Lightning really believes what he learns by an act of sacrifice.
This theme of sacrifice should have been emphasized a little more. Sacrifice is, after all, one of the most important traits of a Christian. Christ sacrificed His own life for us (John 15:13). We, too, should be willing to sacrifice ourselves, in one form or another, for each other. Sacrifice is, after all, the only real visible proof of love. Only by the giving of ourselves can we truly display the love of Christ within us.
Violence: Minor / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: None
See our interview with an artist for this film, Jeremy Vickery (a Christian).