87 of 96 people found the following review helpful
Pixar does it again, but it had to grow on me.
, March 30, 2011
This review is from: Cars (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo in Blu-ray Packaging) (Blu-ray)
When I saw this movie in the theaters I enjoyed watching it enough, but I kept thinking this was the worst Pixar film I have seen. Funny thing is the worst Pixar film is still A grade material compared to most other animated features released. And while Cars didn't wow me on the big screen the way The Incredibles or Monsters Inc (or a score of other Pixar films) the film grew on me in a big way when we got it home. You see my son (two years old at the time) loved to watch it. Being the inclusive dad that I am I would watch it with him. I got what Pixar was doing when I first saw Cars, but it didn't resonate with me until repeated viewings. Now, while it's still not my favorite Pixar movie, Cars made a believer out of me in what they were saying about this film.
You see Cars isn't just a cartoon about a world where cars are people. It's a tribute of the history of the automobile, a nod to NASCAR and its roots, and a love letter to Route 66. All of this done in a family-friendly and colorful animated universe. Any car nut with a broad spectrum interest in the automobile will find lots of different cars from different eras getting face time on this movie. NASCAR fans will love the racing sequences and level of detail dedicated to the sport. Those who remember the days before the Interstate system where there was as much fun travelling to your destination as there was being there will feel nostalgic for that time again. The movie hits on multiple levels, which is what makes it better than the sum of its parts.
Take that all away and you still have a fun cartoon. You have cars talking and acting like people for God's sake! The kids will eat that up! Cars are getting into crazy situations that are in their own way a slight play on human issues. There are plenty of little jokes on that vein that both the kids and parents can laugh over. There is even a joke or two with a double meaning the adults may get a kick out of. This is all classic Pixar and does much to fill in the little spaces between story development.
The story? Well like I said when I first saw it I got what they were saying, but wasn't impressed. It's essentially much like an episode of The Andy Griffith Show I remember seeing where somebody from the big city gets stuck in Mayberry, desparate to get out, only to end up loving the town and wanting more. Maybe it was because it was in a way the preachiest of the Pixar films telling us we should slow down our busy lives and go back to simpler times. Not that it's a bad message. Just not one that held onto on first viewing. Well after watching it several more times with my excited toddler the little details come into play that I either missed or ignored the first time around. The sleepy town that slowly comes to life the more their new visitor gives to it. The beautiful backdrops of painted deserts and canyons. There is character growth going on.
Cartoons live and die by their voice actors. While just about every animation company puts out movies that take advantage of celebrity power to gain an audience Pixar is one of the few who has consistently been able to get the best performances from them, and cars is no different. Every celebrity voice is pitch perfect and puts you in the view of the character more than the actor. Larry the Cable Guy as Mater the tow truck easily steals the show, but does it in such a way where you absolutely know it's Larry doing the voice, but you see Mater as a character in of itself rather than a cartoon Larry. Owen Wilson puts his best sly, but whiner-like demeanor for racing star McQueen that's his best. Some characters I still have trouble recognizing the transformation is so good. Tony Shalhoub (better known as Monk from the TV series) is absolutely unbelievable as tire shop owner Luigi. Better yet Michael Keaton as Chic Hicks barely sounds like Michael. Michael makes what is essentially the villain in the movie a very enjoyable and charismatic cut up. I can go on, but suffice it to say the "acting" is top notch.
Animation wise all I have to say is this is Pixar. They are just about the best in the business and what you see in this movie will impress even today. The race scenes are dynamically shot the same way you would see a big NASCAR race with gravel, debris, smoke and skid marks looking real. The level of detail is very impressive from the waxed shine on the cars to the minute dust.
This Blu-Ray release is pretty much identical to the previous release, but this time they include the DVD version as well. The differences between the Blu-Ray and DVD versions visually are striking, and that's admitting the DVD looks great. The Blu-Ray technically has two menus, but that's not a big deal. One of the menus has three options which are the movie, bonus cartoons and featurettes. Here's a breakdown (features on the DVD will have an * beside them):
Mater and the Ghost Light*: Like all Pixar releases Cars comes with both the animated short that was viewed before the movie in theaters plus a totally new short related to the movie itself. This is a story about Mater scaring the town with little tricks so he is told a story about the infamous Ghost Light, which he then appears to experience after left alone. Goofy funny with Mater kind of replaying a number of scenes from the movie in a different way.
One Man Band*: This is the short that was played before the movie in theaters. It's about two street musicians "dueling" for a little girl's coin. The musicians get more outrageous in their zeal for the money and things end up going crazy.
Mater in Bounding: Remember the Pixar short with the Jackalope and sheep? Well this is a quickie (non hi-def) short of Mater replacing the sheep bouncing all over the place. I think it's something the animators put together for fun and are sharing with us.
End Credits: Here you can see the animation end credits in full frame without the credits. Love the previous Pixar movie references.
Production Features include:
Two Full Length Commentaries: One is by Lasseter and the other with the production team (with pictures).
Inspiration for 'Cars'*: Documentary told by John Lasseter on the inspiration for Cars including a jaunt through Route 66 and seeing some race cars in action.
Documentary Shorts: There are seven little items here. "Radiator Springs," "Character Design," "Animation and Acting," "Real World Racing: Getting Geeky with the Details," "Hudson Hornet," "Graphics" and "Darrell Waltrip Museum Tour". This is the real meat of the extras. You get to see the real love for the source material and how much they put into making the movie as much a car-lovers movie as possible.
Cine-Explore: This is a way to see behind the scenes stuff while watching the movie. You can set it automatic or manually punch in the content. Much of the content comes from the other featurettes.
Deleted Scenes*: These are just sketches and storyboards that never went beyond pre-production. It's interesting to see how the script evolved, but don't expect extra cartoons.
Carfinder Game: It's dubbed as a very sophisticated BD game, but I call it incredibly tedious. The has three play modes. The primary mode is where you have to select a car from the bottom of your screen when it shows up in the movie. Next is the same concept, but this time the screen is frozen for an amount of time due to a massive amount of cars to rummage through. Third is like a bonus round where you get three images of the same car and you have to pick which one is accurate (with the other two having often the slightest differences in them).
The reward for going through the game (which you cannot get out of until you finish the movie with it) is a Showroom that has all the cars you found. You can click on the showroom and get a pretty neat profile of that car and it's personal history. I have to admit I really like getting this information as it broadens the story greatly. It's just a bear of a game to go through. This isn't a casual game to kill a little time. Be prepared to commit.
Cars is one of those movies that is very different from anything else out there, but then again you can say that for a good number of Pixar movies. It's a great movie for the car lover and those who enjoy remembering the 1950's driving experience where drive-ins and cruising mainstreet were how you treat a Friday night. Oh yeah... car racing fans will definitely get a kick out this film. If you aren't into any of that then you still should give this movie a try. It's VERY accessible to just everybody out there.
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