Fabulous. Nearly perfect in almost every way. Pixar has out done itself again. Doing away with humans entirely, Cars revolves around a big engined race-car, voiced by Owen Wilson, that finds out winning the race isn't everything; it's how you get there that counts.
Lightning McQueen, as he is called, finds himself on a detour through a small town called Radiator Springs on his way to the big race in California. Here he is greeted by a very diverse group of cars who long for the day when the interstate didn't by-pass their town and life was in its golden age. Making friends, McQueen discovers, is what's really important in life; not fame or girls or money.
I highly recommend seeing this movie on the big screen if you get a chance. Because it's animation, the "camera" can obviously do a lot more than if this were real. It all starts with the opening race sequence in a HUGE stadium packed with fans and everything else that goes with a NASCAR event. Think "Days of Thunder" but with far more immersion into the actual race (and a lot more fun). The camera zooms us through and between cars at impossible speeds as we race down the track. The stadium and the goings-on within are so big and bright and beautiful that it positively sparkles on screen.
From there, everything takes off. We visit country sides, interstates, big cities and gorgeous mountainous regions complete with impossibly cool waterfalls and foilage. All of the rendering is done meticulously and flawlessly. Somethings are flashy and bright, like an obvious jab at "The Fast and the Furious," and some are nostalgic and grand, like an old postcard from the 60's of travelling across middle-America (or something). One of the things I like about Pixar films is their ability to notice things in life and put them on screen that other animation studios ignore. For instance, the way rows of corn look as you pass by at 60 mph. Or exactly the way little flies behave around a neon light. These are things you and I see in daily life, but when they're put on screen in an animated film, you think to yourself, "oh yeah, cool!"
Funny, funny, FUNNY! One scene in particular involving tractors actually got tears to well up, I laughed so hard. But with Pixar, it's not always the major sequences that are important it's all about the small things that count. The main story is just there to give us something to follow. Of course it's predicatable with some obvious messages right from the starting line, but so what? It's all of the minor details and jokes that are given to us along the way. I can't give anything away, of course, but there are many many laugh-out loud moments and so many great characters that you can't help but fall in love with each of them right away. But keep your eyes and ears sharp. Read things on screen, listen for the subtleties. No one in the theater, but my sister and I, even heard what I thought was probably the funniest or second funniest moment in the entire movie (or maybe they didn't think it was funny, or they just didn't get it). For those of you from Minnesota, USA, there is a little joke halfway through that only you and your fellow patrons will get. No one else in the entire world will get it, or even understand it, so watch for that!
For all of the laughing and joking, there are also, of course, sentimental scenes and heart-touching interactions. It's a great mix of both. Tears of joy mixed with salty tears of nostalgia and sorrow. Brought to us by each of the characters lighting up the screen in his or her own way. I was surprised to find that Larry the Cable Guy's character was proabbly my favorite, or maybe it was the little French forklift, or maybe... I told you, they're all great. Will Pixar never cease to amaze?
And, per usual, Pixar loves to throw in jokes and homages to insiders in the movie business, and in this case, the racing industry. Several voices are provided by actual race car drivers. Other things are fun jabs at those in films and shows. Most of which, the general movie-going public (including myself) won't notice or understand.
"Monsters, Inc." is still my favorite Pixar film and I doubt anything will take away from that, but I'm pretty sure "Cars" comes in a very close second for me. I had a blast at the showing and I think everyone around me did as well. Don't be surprised to see critical accalim for this one and very likely an Oscar nod in January. I bet some will say this is the best outing for Pixar yet, I won't necessarily disagree. For those of you who have actually read this far, then you won't mind staying the extra 10 minutes in the theater to watch the credits. Instead of bloopers (ala Toy Story), you'll see extended scenes and additional scenes including a great scene with John Ratzenberger, who has voiced a character in almost every Pixar film to date. Trust me, it's good. If you stay all the way til the end, you'll see a little added bonus of the Minnesota reference again, albeit not as funny. Of all the films available to see in theaters right now, I recommend this one first and foremost. Funny, touching and maybe even life learning, Cars is a bumper to bumper good time. "FREEBIRD!"