It has been ten years since Pixar released their seventh feature film. I was six years old and I remember going to see the film, Cars. The film was just a cool sort of movie to me at the time, but the more and more I watched it as I grew up, the more I realized how much this film speaks to me. Hailing from a small town in one of the smallest states in America, I loved Cars. I still do. Seeing as Cars is now ten years old, I decided to go back and rematch it yet again, this time with more critical eyes and see if this movie holds up.
1. The Premise
The story of a cocky, young race car who takes life too fast and finds himself lost in small town America, where he is forced to take life slow and start living life for more than just himself. This premise is sturdy and the film delivers what it promises in spades.
2. The Cast & Characters
Cars features some of Pixar’s best and most recognizable characters yet in the form of Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) and Mater (voiced by Larry The Cable Guy). The cast is stacked with talent featuring performances by Michael Keaton (as the primary antagonist Chick Hicks), Paul Newman (as mentor Doc Hudson), Bonnie Hunt (as love interest Sally Carrera), Tony Shalhoub (as Italian tire shop owner Luigi), & Cheech Marin (as body shop owner Ramone). Additional cast members include: Jeremy Piven, Richard Petty, Joe Ranft, & John Ratzenberger. The cast delivers excellent performances and fully embody their roles. Pixar alumni Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Billy Crystal, John Goodman, & Dave Foley all return in car versions of their previous Pixar roles. These performances wholly reflect small town America in every aspect of the small cities you see.
3. The Story *SPOILERS*
The story follows rookie race car Lightning McQueen and his personal journey. Lightning is on his way to the final race for the Piston Cup when he gets lost on the interstate and finds himself lost in the small town of Radiator Springs along Route 66. After tearing up their town and flipping everything on its head, Lightning is tasked with fixing the road before he is allowed to leave. In an attempt to win his freedom, he races Doc Hudson, the town judge & doctor, who he discovers is the legendary racer, the Hudson Hornet. After a while, Lightning starts to fall for the town and helps fix it up, only to rescued by Mack and the media, who were tipped off by Doc. He is taken California where he races The King & Chick Hicks for the Piston Cup. After struggling to perform at usual capacity, Lightning discovers his new pic crew to be his friends from Radiator Springs, who cheer him on to victory. Tragedy strikes as The King is taken out of the race by Chick Hicks in a similar manner to the crash that ended Doc’s career. He gives up his win to Chick in order to help The King finish his last race. Lightning is offered the position as the new face of Dinoco, however, McQueen turns him down in order to stay with the group who gave him his big break. With his new found respect in the racing world and his own personal growth, Lightning McQueen returns of Radiator Springs where he builds his own new racing HQ.
The story of Cars is one that I find to be timeless. The progression,themes, and deeper ideals conveyed in the film are ones that would lead me to believe that Cars, I would dare say, is shakespearian. There are two deeper meanings found within Cars. The first being a message of slowing down and taking time to enjoy life.
“No need to watch where I’m going, just need to know where I been. – Mater, Cars
The second is one of progress versus tradition. This theme is conveyed through the story of Sally and Radiator Springs as a whole. Cars is brilliant.
4. The Production
The production value of Cars is excellent. The behind the scenes documentary reveals the special meanings and inspirations to Cars. The animation is beautiful and the colors are bright. The direction is great and overall the production is spectacular.
As I find myself becoming a Junior in high school, I look back at my favorite childhood film and realize that life is blowing by and the best way to make the most of it is to remember to slow down. Cars is a movie that will forever hold up and be relevant. Cars is a masterpiece and a very underrated Pixar film. I’d give the film an A+.