Monday, January 2, 2017
I'll start this by saying that I rate Cars and it's sequel as two of the poorest things Pixar have done (I'm at a loss as to why they're doing a 3rd one).
The cynic in me says that now Disney had complete and total ownership of Pixar they wanted to put out something that they could market to the hilt, and whatever other failings Cars has, it is extremely marketable, especially to the young boy market. My nephew loved everything Cars related at that age and had more than a few Lightning McQueen toys. Apparently, Cars had been on Pixar's radar for a while, it just hadn't been greenlit until this point.
It was for me, a major disappointment that Pixar followed up the absolutely brilliant The Incredibles with a rather lack lustre effort about humanised Nascars. Maybe if you're a car fan, which I am not, it strikes more of a chord, but Cars and it's sequel seem to rate low down on most people's estimation.
I found the race sequences extremely boring. My favourite bit was Guido; the little Italian forklift, showing up all the mocking experienced forklift pit crew up by changing Lightning's tires in double quick time, the film could have gone up in my estimation if it had been about Guido and not Lightning McQueen.
I will say that the animation, especially the scenery in and around Radiator Springs, was stunning and far away the highlight of the movie.
The storyline about the brash driven newcomer finding himself a fish out of water, learning about his craft and a bit of humility and turning out to be a decent person/car afterwards was very trite and not what audiences expected from Pixar. It didn't help that for most of the film Lightning McQueen is a fairly unlikeable protagonist (none of Pixar's previous heroes were). They tried to fill this with Mater, the old red neck tow truck being comedy relief, and like with many characters of this sort, I found him tiresome rather than funny.
The best bit of the film actually comes at the end, during the credits where they show clips from other Pixar films, but car themed ones. That's a fair indictment on the film that the best part is the credits joke.
Whatever else they got wrong, the casting was as always excellent. Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen was dead on. Wilson was forging a career playing this sort of character and he was white hot at the time.
Although Paul Newman, himself a car enthusiast, was well cast as the old, wise, retired racecar Doc Hudson, I always found it kind of sad that documentaries aside, Cars was his last film.
Michael Keaton as the highly unpleasant Chick Hicks was well done, although I'm not sure why they had to cast as well known and high profile an actor in that particular role.
Cheech Marin (of Cheech and Chong fame) played to type as Ramone, an Impala lowrider with appropriate paint job, as did George Carlin in the role of a hippie 1960 VW bus.
John Ratzenberger as Mack, McQueen's truck, had his biggest role since Toy Story 2, and was part of a nice joke when the cars watch the other Pixar movies, pointing out that they keep using the same guy.
I loved the cameo from Jeremy Piven as Harv, Lightning's agent. It was a nice little gag for those who watched Entourage and loved Piven as the amoral talent agent Ari Gold.
Richard Kind also has a cameo as a lost car who refuses to ask for directions.
Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Billy Crystal, John Goodman and Dave Foley all reprised their roles for the end credit sequence and that was a sign of how big Pixar had become that they could call on this sort of talent for a almost throwaway joke sequence at the end of a film.
The next film has to be better than this.