Film Review - Cars
120 minutes. Disney-Pixar, 2006. DVD/VHS to come. Voices of Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, Paul Newmann, Larry the Cable Guy, and Richard Petty. Director: John Lasseter.
IS THIS a film review about a cartoon? Yes it is! The creators of Toy Story and Finding Nemo have given audiences, old and young, another treat with their computer graphics. On the surface cartoons have always been funny stories for the children, but some also carry parabolic messages for adults. When I was a youngster I enjoyed The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, which was a series of comic tales about a smart squirrel and his dim-witted moose companion. For adults this 1960s cartoon was a satire on the Cold War. This same kind of child/adult appreciation can be found in Cars.
For children, Cars is a fun story about talking automobiles who embody the personalities of their probable owners and drivers. The main character, Lightning McQueen (with the voice of Owen Wilson), is a self-centered hotshot rookie racecar who thinks he can win the championship cup on his own. A wrong turn on the way to the big race lands him in Radiator Springs, a small town in the American southwest bypassed by a major highway (or interstate). During his sojourn off the beaten path Lightning befriends many other cars who teach him about the values of teamwork and looking out for others. He eventually heads to the race a different vehicle than he was when he had arrived.
Cars also has added-value for adults too. It is a comment on how North American society has become obsessed too much with the quick pace of the 24/7 work schedule. In several scenes Sally, a lawyer Porsche 911 who left the fast lane of Los Angeles for the slower pace of Radiator Springs (voice of Bonnie Hunt), tells Lightning about how roads used to be built to bend and move with the contours of the land. Driving was more about “having a good time” instead of “making time.” Instead, the new superhighways have cut into the land to save time, and travelers tend to miss the good view. Realizing that he has learned a lesson, Lightning admits that he too needs to slow down at times.
With a surname like McQueen, one could assume Ulster-Scots roots for the main character. (Did not Belfast once build DeLoreans?!) In telling this modern parable Cars uses the ever popular NASCAR circuit as the backdrop. Of course, auto racing has a following world-wide, yet this unique American style of auto racing originated with, and it continues to be promoted by, the Appalachian Scots-Irish (Ulster-Scots). While these Ulster-descendents are known for being a laid back plain folk, their love of racing may have given even them an addiction to speed in the 24/7 world. Lightning starts off as a cocky individualist concerned about the instant glory, prestige and commercialism of winning the cup. Come the final race, Lightning remembers what he learned in Radiator Springs, and he gives up instant glory in an act of true sportsmanship. By adhering to these older and noble values, he wins the hearts of many.
This cartoon is both entertaining and heart touching. Included are the character voices of NASCAR legend Richard Petty and veteran actor and part-time racer Paul Newmann. Watch Cars with your children, and learn its lessons to slow down at times. Of course, slowing down can be difficult with youngsters!