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Cars: The Movie

Topics:  Cars
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Cars: The Movie

Bill Crittenden
The Crittenden Automotive Library
November 16, 2006

Better late than never, right?  Last Tuesday was the DVD release of the Disney/Pixar movie, Cars.  I thought this would be a good time to review the movie, as I didn't get to see it right away when it was in theaters.

The basic premise of this computer-animated movie is that a self-centered race car, Lightning McQueen, gets stuck in a small town and learns to care about others.  While the basic setup of the movie sounds like common stuff, and is, this movie is far from it.

The cars are the stars of the movie, and the people in the world Pixar has brought to life.  With mouths for front grilles, eyes for windshields, and gesturing with their front tires, the cars in the movie are brought to life with great detail.

Star power includes Lightning McQueen, voiced by Owen Wilson, the central character of the movie.  A tow truck named Mater, voiced by Larry the Cable Guy, however, often steals the show.  Bonnie Hunt voices Sally, a Porsche 911 and town attorney.  Cheech Marin is Ramone, an Impala lowrider and paint artist.  Richard Petty is Strip Weathers, a Petty-blue #43 Plymouth Superbird and Piston Cup champion racing his last season.  Jeremy Piven is the voice of Harv, Lightning's unseen agent.

What sets this movie apart from other animated movies is the serious history that they brought to this story.  Doc Hudson (voiced by Paul Newman) is a Hudson Hornet, who turns out to be the Fabulous Hudson Hornet, 3-time Piston Cup champion.  This mirrors NASCAR's history, where the Hudson Hornets of Marshall Teague, Fonty Flock and others dominated the very early years of Grand National competition.

A subplot involves the fortunes of the fictional Route 66 town of Radiator Springs, almost empty and forgotten along with their little stretch of road when the interstate is paved nearby.

Cameos and roles by big names in racing and the auto industry add to the story.  Richard Petty plays a role in the movie, and Lynda Petty plays his wife.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is one of the Piston Cup racers.  Humpy Wheeler plays Tex, the owner of Dinoco.  Race announcers are Bob Costas (as Bob Cutlass) and Darrell Waltrip (as Darrell Cartrip).  Michael Andretti and Michael Schumacher make a short cameos at the end of the movie.  Lightning's sponsor, Rust-eze, is owned by two brothers played by Tom & Ray Magliozzi of Car Talk fame.

I'm actually glad I waited to review the film.  The DVD, in a plastic case with a sleeve, holds some impressive extras, and now I get a chance to mention them.  In addition to the film itself is the accompanying short "One Man Band."

You may have noticed that when the helicopter spotlights shine on Lightning just before Mack comes to take him to the race track, Mater yells the odd line, "it's the ghost light!"  Included in the DVD is "Mater and the Ghost Light," a hilarious seven minute bit set in Radiator Springs after the movie ends, and possibly the best short film Pixar has made (I think I've seen almost all of them).

Also included in the DVD are deleted scenes.  The scenes aren't fully animated, they're actually (in the tradition of rough-looking deleted scenes) pencil drawing animations with voices.  There is also the Epilogue, which is all of the scenes that play in a small window in the credits blown up on the full screen.

Perhaps best of all the extras is a 16-minute featurette on the inspiration for the movie.  It includes the filmmakers' trip down Route 66, their instruction on racing from former NASCAR driver Jerry Nadeau and some old stock car footage.

While I admit I haven't seen many of the classics, this is perhaps the best stock-car racing movie I've seen.  Staying true to Pixar's high standards, there's an incredible level of detail, and it took several views of the film before I stopped noticing new things.

©2006 Bill Crittenden

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