A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Cars

October 13, 2010

Cars

I enjoyed this movie a little more when it starred Michael J. Fox and was called Doc Hollywood. Still, there’s a heart to this movie that I can’t deny. It’s a very basic sort of redemption story about a big town cad who has no friends and is completely self obsessed and how he needs to slow down to find out how to really enjoy life.

In this case the cad is race car Lightning McQueen. He’s a rookie on the Piston Cup circuit who has a chance of being the first rookie to win. He’s also an annoyingly egotistical twerp who has alienated everybody he knows. Much is made of the fact that he has no chief for his pit crew, and the crew themselves quit and abandon him after the big race at the start of the movie. This big race ends in a three way tie between Lightning, The King (reigning champ) and Chick, who is Lightning’s chief rival. There is to be a re-match in California in one week, and in an attempt to get there first so he can get to know the course (and schmooze the big-name sponsor he wants) he insists that his transport truck Mac drive overnight with no sleep. On the way he falls out of his cab and finds himself lost in the middle of nowhere, off the beaten path, in a little hick town called Radiator Springs.

What happens isn’t really important. He encounters a group of stereotypes living in the desert far from the quick life of the freeway. He discovers that there might be more to life than winning. He is given nuggets of wisdom from a grumpy old car called Doc and goes “tractor tipping” with Larry the Cable Guy. He eventually and inevitably learns an important lesson about life.

So if the movie is so predictable and formulaic why is it that I enjoy it so much? Well in part it’s because the group Lightning encounters are such fun characters. There’s the rivalry between the retired military Jeep and the burnt out druggie VW Bus. There’s Flo who runs the gas station and her husband the hydraulic low rider voiced by Cheech Marin. There are Luigi and Guido the wacky foreign pair of Grand Prix fans. And much as it shames me to admit it (elite Northeast snob that I am) I got a lot of laughs from Mater, the country hick tow truck played by Larry the Cable Guy.

Another thing I enjoy about this movie is the very strange world-building they do. The world of Cars is one of intelligent automobiles which drive themselves around the country and live their own lives. All the technology they use is familiar to us but used huge buttons which can be manipulated by tires rather than fingers. They can fuel themselves from pumps. They can work hands-free telephones. There’s a car that flies a crop duster. (Though some other vehicles are intelligent too – such as the blimp and the nightmare inducing combine/bull named Frank.) The insects of their world are tiny VW Beetles. It’s a very strange world, but one which the animators seem to have put a lot of thought into as well.

I also love the payoff at the end. The final climactic race wonderfully encapsulates the whole message of the movie and brings everything together. I honestly don’t know how Pixar keeps doing this. This movie should by all rights be a horrible train wreck. It’s a corny story filled with caricatures. But there are a few moments near the end of Lightning’s journey that show a real tenderness and have a valid message to them which really grab me. By the end of the movie I still find myself emotionally moved and touched. Maybe they’re using some kind of subliminal messaging in their movies. The folks at Pixar just have some secret knack which lets them reach out and grab my heart, even with the most corny of stories.

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October 13, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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