Took the entire family to see Cars for my Father's Day movie treat. Some observations....
1. Pixar is not perfect. The movie is only so-so, at times barely so. Good start, slooooowwwwww second act, solid finish. Now granted, Cars has a tough act to follow. I mean you've got Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, two family films that belong at the top of nearly any list of great animated films. They're flawless, no question. But even taken on its own merits, this movie is a bit lackluster.
2. While it's not Pixar's first semi-dud, this time it's not due to bad/distracting/annoying voice casting (a la Monsters, Inc., which would have been far, far better without Billy Christal). It's all in the plotting. The movie has a lame middle.
3. Automobiles, no matter how well animated, are very difficult to emotionally identify with. This presents some serious problems when you're trying to tug at the heartstrings.
4. I so completely and utterly loathe Larry the Cable Guy that -- even though his character in the film was sweet natured and funny, and functions as the "heart" of the film -- I still wanted to jump through the screen and kick him repeatedly in the grill. Broad redneck stereotypes really irk me. This, alas, also contributed to problems identifying with the characters.
5. John Ratzenberger can do no wrong.
6. I never realized how much of Owen Wilson's charm can be traced directly to his crooked nose. Lacking this visual element, his voice is just sort of ... annoying.
7. Though I don't really find it offensive or anything, I do find it odd that racial stereotypes are so readily embraced in animated kids films. Cheech Marin, Jenifer Lewis, and Tony Shalhoub's characters are every bit the absurd stereotypical racial caricature that Jar Jar Binks was, and yet no one seems to be up in arms about it.
8. During the really long boring stretch in the middle of the film, there's a lot of fun to be had looking at the huge number of details in the background. I particularly loved how the mountain ranges and mesas were shaped like the Cadillac Ranch and various classic auto hoods and fins. And how the vapor trails, left by unseen airplanes, looked like tire tracks. Great work, and a welcome distraction.
9. If you don't like NASCAR, this movie will not change your mind. In spite of all their efforts to make it look all fast and whooshy and exciting during the race scenes, I still think that any "sport" that basically comes down to "drive straight/turn left/repeat as quickly as possible for as long as necessary" is some sort of gigantic corporate-sponsored joke being played on people who value neither their time nor their hearing.
10. In spite of all of this, I still teared up at the end. Once they get to the part where Lightning start to realize that Radiator Springs is a good thing that's been forgotten about and deserves to be remembered, Cars finds its heart and managed to find mine, too. But it was really, really iffy for a while there. And I honestly enjoyed Over the Hedge more.
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