When I was in high school back in the late 70's, my best friend drove the ugliest, piece-of-crap Pinto wagon on the planet. It was a drab silver color with round bubble windows on the back panels. Dave hardly ever cleaned it (inside or out) and the back seats were a sea of McDonald's bags and boxes (in the good ole' non-ecofriendly styrofoam days). The car was ugly to look at, and suggested it might be the biggest embarrassment on the Florida roadways.
Looks are deceiving though.
Dave had another friend who loved to tinker with cars and who, in a frenzy of automotive upgrading, installed a rebuilt Rolls-Royce engine and a Masarati transmission in Dave's Pinto. The silver beast could now press you back into your seat when you hit the gas and leave a permanent impression. Think Mission: Space, but with a greater potential for instant death. This baby could fly and was the perfect car for two irresponsible teenagers on the straight, flat back roads outside Orlando.
Still, I always wondered why anyone would put all that glorious, precision machinery in such a drab package.
The Cars DVD kinda makes me feel the same way.
Disney and Pixar release Cars today in all its exquisitely detailed, CG-animated glory. It's an amazing movie to look at with its reflective car hoods, stunning southwest vistas and even the rubber "marbles" that bounce off a race track.
If only the story was that impressive—and the DVD extras not so, well, pedestrian.
Cars spins the tale of hot shot rookie race car Lightning McQueen (voiced by a way too laid back Owen Wilson). He’s taking the racing world by storm with talent, aggressiveness and arrogance and finds himself at the beginning of the movie in a three-way tie for the Piston Cup championship with fellow race cars Chick Hicks (Michael Keaton) and “The King” (racing legend Richard Petty, a nice touch). On a cross country trip to the next race that will crown the season champion, Lightning gets stranded in the dusty, nearly deserted town of Radiator Springs. It’s a city that time forgot on a lonely stretch of Route 66, bypassed by the high-speed interstate highway that most other cars now prefer.
Radiator Springs is inhabited by just plain folk . . . errr . . . cars who enjoy their quiet lifestyle, but long for the days when their town used to buzz with activity as cars trekked from Chicago to Los Angeles and back on Route 66. Among the inhabitants are Mater (pitch perfect Larry the Cable Guy) a dim, beat up tow truck; Sally (sweet, but bland Bonnie Hunt), a Porsche Carrera from the city who wandered into town and stayed; and Doc Hudson (gruff, but wise Paul Newman), an old-school Hudson Hornet who may have a racing history of his own.
Will Lightning learn that life in the fast lane is overrated and stop to smell the Valvoline? Will he make it to the race on time? It’s no spoiler to say the answer to both these questions is yes—and that’s part of the problem with Cars. There’s too much predictability and not enough conflict in the movie. There’s not even a decent bad guy to root against (Chick Hicks really doesn’t count). All the character’s go quietly about their business with a few funny bits thrown in (Lightning and Mater’s “tractor tipping” is a classic). Of course, Lightning sees the headlight and becomes a better car for it, but it’s all presented in such a leisurely (and lengthy—Cars runs over two hours) manner, it’s hard to really care. While the animation is extraordinary, the story is ordinary—and we’ve come to expect more from Pixar than that.
The DVD extras are sadly lacking. While there’s a fun feature with John Lasseter and the Pixar gang taking a trip down the real Route 66, there’s no movie commentary track with Lasseter or anyone. The DVD does include “One Man Band,” an Oscar-nominated Pixar short, and “Mater and the Ghostlight,” another short made just for the DVD, but there’s not much else. Compare this to how fully loaded The Incredibles DVD was. Again, I expected more, especially from the #2 movie at the box office this year.
Cars may look great in the showroom, but when you get it out on the road, it disappoints.