Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

Movie Review: CARS

Animated Discussions Extra
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

Directed by John Lasseter
Co-Directed by Joe Ranft
Featuring the voices of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt and Larry The Cable Guy
Rated G
Seen at Great Escape Theatre, Nitro, WV

“Cars” is yet another near perfect film from the folks at Pixar. This time, the crew that has previously given us great stories featuring toys, bugs, monsters and fish breathes life into anthropomorphic automobiles. “Cars” tells the story of rookie race car Lightning McQueen who winds up stranded in the middle of nowhere and learns valuable lessons about how to appreciate life in the slow lane.

As with any Pixar movie, the voice cast is top notch. Owen Wilson brings just the right amount of charm and naive arrogance to the brash Lightning McQueen. It’s nice to enjoy a performance by Owen Wilson without spending the entire movie trying to figure out what the deal is with his nose. Paul Newman is perfectly cast as the grizzled old “Doc”, Hudson Hornet. Bonnie Hunt turns in the quintessential performance as a romantic interest for McQueen. A very pleasant surprise is that, like Jim Varney before him, Larry The Cable Guy successfully makes the leap from lowbrow redneck comedy to first-class Pixar voice talent.

Other notable voices who basically turn up in cameo roles include George Carlin, Paul Dooley, Cheech Marin, Bob Costas, Michael Keaton and Jay Leno. Racing personalities who lend their voices in supporting roles include Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhart Jr. and Mario Andretti. John Ratzenberger, the “good luck charm” who has provided a voice for almost every Pixar feature film, voices Mack, the tractor trailer transport for Lightning McQueen. Fans will want to stay through the end credits for a series of very funny jokes, one of which involves Mack.

Also buried among the end credits is a brief tribute to the late Joe Ranft, who co-wrote, co-directed and provided two voices for this film. Ranft perished in an accident last year. He was a longtime member of the Pixar team and contributed to many other animated features, including “Corpse Bride”.

As with any Pixar film, “Cars” is pure eye candy. Not only are the designs sleek and beautiful, but they’re also very clever. The rock formations and mountains around the desert town of Radiator Springs look like classic auto body parts from the 40’s and 50’s. The cars themselves are based on real models and are perfectly suited to the characters given them. In a sense, “Cars” is one big valentine to the classic automobile designers of the 20th century.

The movie opens with twenty minutes of loud, frantic, NASCAR style action. Had the movie kept this pace, it may have been overwhelming for some people. Fortunately, at just the right moment, the action slows down and the real story begins.

While en route cross country, Lightning finds himself stranded in Radiator Springs, a small town on Route 66 which has been bypassed by a massive interstate and nearly become a ghost town as businesses close and the cars leave. A disoriented Lightning destroys the main road and is sentenced to re-pave it before he can continue on to his race, challenging for the Piston Cup.

Some reviewers have complained that “Cars” steals its plot from the movie “Doc Hollywood”. Actually, it owes more to “My Cousin Vinny” and Billy Wilder’s “Kiss Me Stupid”. However, such comparisons are irrelevant, because none of those movies featured talking cars.

“Cars” is fun for the whole family. Small children may be taken aback by the intense racing action in the beginning and very end of the movie. But most kids will love the film, start reciting catch phrases from it, and bug Mommy and Daddy for all the toys.

“Cars” is a fine addition to the Pixar showroom. This year’s model is a state of the art testament to the excellence of American ingenuity and design. We think it’s the best animated feature of the year. Your mileage may vary.


  1. Daniel Franklin

    Great animation, but weak storyline….4/10 for me

  2. gazz editor

    Anthropomorphic …

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