Wednesday, July 12, 2006


A whole gang of us went to see this movie: ages 63, 57, 37, 35, 33, 12, and 10.

We all LOVED it.

Is this the perfect movie? Pretty darn close! Pixar proves again that they are the best. Not only is it gut busting funny, it's got a Meaningful Story, and not in a way that beat us over the head with the morality tale. The music, featuring Sheryl Crow, Brad Paisley and Rascal Flatts doing a Tom Cochrane classic, is excellent and suits every scene. The gags and puns are perfect, the sight gags are brilliant, and the scenery will blow your mind.

"Look at the sky!"

"It's all computer generated y'know."

"Yeah...I know!"


Now, about Cars: It's always nice when a cartoon for parents has enough entertainment value to keep the kids happy as well. And that's what we had here.

This is not a kid's movie. Don't get me wrong--it's 'G' rated, and has lots of fun and flashy stuff in it that will make every kid kick the seat in front with delight and excitement, but that's not who this flick is focused on.

It's aimed at the NASCAR Dad.

I'm not a big NASCAR fan. I don't know Rusty Wallace from a rusty fender. But this movie was chockfull of car-culture references. Most of which I'm guessing were over the heads of the average 8 to 10 year olds.

Me? I ate it up. So many people in the automobile world were represented in this thing that even me, a guy who had gotten over car fever a few decades ago, was impressed.

"Look! That's Richard Petty!" I'd whisper to my son.

"Oh! That's Click and Clack the Tappit Brothers!" I'd murmer to my daughter.

"I don't care!" he'd offer.

"Shut up!" she'd suggest.

But it was cool to me.

And it's an interesting phenomenon: If there was a movie where Owen Wilson and Bonnie Hunt were flirting with each other on camera, my kids would be bored, regardless of the level of wit in the dialogue. But if he's a racecar, and she's a Porsche, they'll be enamored.

So anyways.

Owen Wilson is Ligthning McQueen, rookie sensation on the Piston Cup circuit, looking to be the first rookie to ever win the cup. He's cocky and selfish, and his arrogance costs him an outright championship of the Cup, and sets up an unprecidented three-way race-off to determine the championship, between him, the reiging champ, a gentlemanly King (Petty) and the eternally second place car, the aggressive/dirty Chick Hicks (Michael Keaton).

On his way to the race, McQueen gets waylaid, and ends up in the nearly-deserted Radiator Springs, where he meets a group of colorful characters, who show him the true meaning of friendship and give him a true sense of perspective.

Sound familiar? It's basically the plot of Doc Hollywood.

There's nothing new here. Not a damn thing. Not in plot, not in character, not in animation style. Even some of the naming gags--Bob Costas as Bob Cutlass, Darrell Waltrip as Darrell Cartrip--are used (anyone remember Stony Curtis from The Flintstones?).

That doesn't mean it's not good. To continue the metaphor: there's nothing new, really in the 2006 Bentleys, either. But they're still selling for six figures.

Even though it's old ground, it's covered with a muscular authority and grace. Every character is fully developed, both in terms of graphics and in storyline. Each character in the frame, no matter whether it's the main character, or just in the background, is drawn with the same attention to detail.

From the bugs on the windows of the old stores (VW Beetless with wings, by the way), to the individual chunks of broken-off asphalt that jump and bounce with the passing of the racers, every pixel is planned and executed with zero tolerance. Even with sequential processing on the fastest computers out there, the average frame render on this move was seventeen hours. That means each second of the movie took seventeen days to finish. That's just render time. Rendering's the last step in a CGI movie. To get to the render phase takes hundreds, if not thousands of hours of work. And it shows.

The dialogue is also predictible, but sparkling, and the characters are vital. Paul Newman is as curmudgeonly as he can be as Doc Hudson, the town Judge/physician, who has a bone to pick with race cars. Bonnie hunt is at her sparkliest as Sally Carrera, the big city Porsche with small town dreams. And it pains me to say it, but the biggest scene-stealer of all is Dan Whitney (AKA Larry the Cable Guy) who embodies all that is annoying and endearing (usually the same traits) about rednecks as the tow truck, Mater ("like tomater, but without the tuh"), while leaving out the racism, fear and misogyny.

In the end John Lassiter shows everyone why he is the King of the CGI movie world. And there's no hotshot rookie coming up behind him.

Go see it. Hell, you might even want to bring your kids along.


Read Pirate's whole posting of that review here.

1 comment:

Kari said...

Can't wait to see it!