Monday 26 Sep 2016

Animated Movie
Michelle McClory

"Cars" is a movie about a hotshot animated stockcar, named Lightning McQueen.

The story is simple. On its way to the big race, the cocky McQueen lands in hot water, in Radiator Springs, no less. There, he learns the true meaning of family and friendship.

The plot isn't new. "Doc Hollywood," the 1991 movie, starring Michael J. Fox, had the same theme. What makes "Cars," is not the story but the storytelling.

Written and directed by John Lasseter, with Joe Ranft, "Cars" takes movie animation to a new level. Pixar Animation Studios, which produced the movie with Disney, out does every other movie production company. The resources that Pixar routinely devotes to character development, for example, always amaze me. Lasseter and Ranft deserve a standing ovation, and maybe a national holiday for their efforts on this film. "Cars" is one of my top ten favourite movies of all time.

If you haven't seen this film, it's hard to understand the magnitude of the animated detail in the film. There's a vehicle to represent each creature in "Cars." Bonnie Hunt voices "Sally," a snazzy Porsche; the Hudson Hornet is voiced by Paul Newman and Larry the Cable Guy voices, what else, but a rusty bucket-of-bolts tow truck.

After seeing "Cars," I cannot meet anybody without thinking, "He's an RV" or "She's a convertible." Yes, this movie has that kind of effect! What kind of car are you?

Owen Wilson wouldn't have been my first choice to voice Lightening McQueen, the obnoxious and spoiled celebrity racecar around whom the plot develops. Adam Sandler would add a little something to the character of Lightening McQueen. Wilson is too likeable, for example, whereas Sandler has the attitude.

What I didn't get from Wilson, I definitely got from Larry the Cable Guy, and George Carlin. Mater, the rusty old tow truck, which was forever pulling young Lightening out of predicaments, was my favourite character. Mater is as a source of comic relief in the emotional storyline surrounding the coming of age of the main character. His intense devotion to his best friend, Lightening, brought tears to my eyes several times. Yet, nearly every time he spoke, I burst out laughing. What a great combination of emotion wrapped into one, well, tow truck.

Carlin voices a 1960 VW Bus named "Fillmore." The name, no doubt, evokes images of the legendary venues. There was "Fillmore East," in New York City, and "Fillmore West," in San Francisco. Bill Graham owned both venues. Graham was a night-school attending taxi driver who became the most influential rock promoter, ever.

The notion of Carlin as a bus is sure to evoke notions of the "Magic Bus." In the 1960s, a magic bus carried Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey and Wavy Gravy among other counter culture heroes, from New York to LA. "The Who," of course, recount the drive and underscore its importance.

It's no surprise that "Fillmore" creates his own mixtures of organic fuel. As a devoted fan of Carlin, I can tell you that I have no question that Pixar developed the bus around the comedian's personality and mannerisms. It's a perfect fit.

A favourite scene involves the newscaster saying, "Lightning turned up missing." There's also Arnold Schwarzenegger portrayed as a Hummer. The representation of him was perfect.

Overall, I think "Cars" is an awesome movie for audience members of all ages. The animation grabs the kids and the back-references, to a VW bus, the Fillmore and Magic Bus, tweak adult interest.

Although there may be one or two questionable scenes, I would never disallow a child from watching the film. Travelers, who share the nostalgic view of Route 66 will revel at the beautiful rendering of the historic highway and shed a tear when the road becomes desolate.

I give "Cars" a four-heart rating! Stars are passé; I prefer to give my ratings in hearts!


Michelle McClory was the first writer to contribute to Grub Street.

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