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Directed by John Lasseter & Joe Ranft.
Written by John Lasseter, Joe Ranft, Dan Fogelman, Kiel Murray, Phil Lorin and Jorgen Klubien.
Starring the voices of Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy and Paul Newman.

Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  6/27/06


"Cars", simply put, isn't as good as the best Pixar films out there, the two "Toy Story" films.  But, the animation continues to amaze and even though the film feels like a forever, it is entertaining enough in spurts to keep you interested through to its completion.

Owen Wilson--his voice, anyway--stars as Lightning McQueen, a rookie on the Piston Cup driving circuit; he's in a points three-way-tie with The King (voiced by Richard Petty) and Chick Hicks (Michael Keaton) in the last race of the season.  Thanks to a tie (???) in that final race, the league commissioners decide that a race between the last threesome will take place in California one week later.  On the road trip west, Lightning gets separated from his trailer (John Ratzenberger, who has voiced a character in every major Pixar release) and ends up off of Route 66 in Radiator Springs, a tiny town where a bunch of outcasts have never left, including a hippie (George Carlin), a Latin car detailer (Cheech Marin), a prosecutor named Sally (Bonnie Hunt), a tow truck (Larry the Cable Guy) and the town judge, doctor, and resident old guy, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman).  Friendships, happiness, and redemption follow, and naturally, Lightning's got a race to make...

I really do sit back during these films stunned by the animation, and "Cars" is no exception--jeez, if you watch "The Flintstones" and then immediately pop in a Pixar film, you just can't believe your eyes in terms of how far animation has come in 40 years.  The cars move brilliantly, and the best part about them is the speed that is conveyed by watching them "drive" themselves all over the screen.  It's cool, really cool.  The story this time around, however, doesn't hold you quite as well as in past productions; further, the number of jokes or ideas that appeal to adults who inevitably have to take little Bobby & little Sally to the theater are few in comparison to past films.  I only giggled a few times; it's probably because the film is so ***damn long, running so long that I was in the theater for about 130 minutes, including some previews.  I don't think these films HAVE to be funny, but from the trailer, I thought there would be more humor and I was gravely mistaken.

Overall, it was an uneven ride for me.  I certainly don't want to see it again, but there are some great in-jokes from past Pixar films as well as nice sight gags, with cars ripped from "The Fast and the Furious" or insects that look exactly like (yep) VW Bugs with wings.  The cast assembled for the film is great, but as much weight as someone like Newman brings to the table, it's almost all pulled off said table when you hear Wilson playing a character that he plays in live-action films...oh, all the time (the young, brazen, I'm-good-looking hotshot).  Hopefully, the next Pixar film, "Ratatouille"--directed by the guys that did "The Incredibles"--will be a stronger flick.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09