The John Lasseter-directed Cars is the seventh feature film created and released by Pixar. Following on from the huge box office successes of Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, Cars took a respectable $461m from a budget of $120m. Inspired by a road trip taken by Lasseter and his family in 2000, Cars is the last Pixar film to star the voice talent of Joe Ranft who tragically died in a car crash in 2005. It is also the last non-documentary film of Paul Newman’s career. It proved to be the highest grossing role of his career.
Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is a rookie race car in The Piston Cup championship. After a three-way tie in the final race, the three cars are informed of a tie-break race that is to take place in Los Angeles International Speedway a week later. Eager to get there early McQueen suffers an accident on route and ends up alone in the small town of Radiator Springs where he damages the towns road and is order by the local judge Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) to fix the road. While doing so he meets and befriends the locals, notably Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) and begins to learn that perhaps life isn’t only about winning.
Cars was on release the most sophisticatedly designed Pixar film, as you would expect, although it should be noted that the processors used to design Lightning McQueen and friends were four times faster than those used on The Incredibles. As a result the film looks sumptuous, rich and in parts mesmerising. The voice acting is good, with Wilson and Newman being fantastic additions to a cast of Pixar regulars. Unfortunately even with these positives, not everything is running smoothly under the hood of Cars.
A fable about taking the slower road as opposed to the high-pressure ˜winning’ route, Cars struggles to find its place as a family film. While not adult in jokes, the themes and overarching narrative read more like an adult film, which continually snaps audiences out of the wonder of the visuals. Clearly a passion project for John Lasseter, Cars ends up playing out as more of a midlife crisis film than a true family film and as a result can be sluggish and rather dull for younger audiences who crave the fast-paced action of a Toy Story.
Unlike previous Pixar films, Cars also lacks the hilarious sidekicks and incidental characters, instead populating Radiator Springs with dull, forgettable dross, which drag the film down to a snail’s pace. It’s fortunate that the finale is so loud, fast and incredible to see that it redeems the crushingly disappointing middle portion.