Sentiment on individual actors/characters mentioned in the Cars film review:
|Paul Newman||Very positive|
|Owen Wilson||Very positive|
|Note: Sentiment analysis performed by Google Natural Language Processing.|
Summary:While traveling to California for the dispute of the final race of the Piston Cup against The King and Chick Hicks, the famous Lightning McQueen accidentally damages the road of the small town Radiator Springs and is sentenced to repair it. Lightning McQueen has to work hard and finds friendship and love in the simple locals, changing its values during his stay in the small town and becoming a true winner. Source: IMDB.
Full text transcript of the Cars film review:
Cars is one of the most predictable Pixar movies ever produced, yet at the same time veers in such an unpredictable direction. It kind of amazes me. It almost feels like a magic trick, actually. That’s how much it surprised me at the time. I remember exactly what I was thinking the first time I saw this movie. I watched the opening and see how awful the Lightning McQueen is to everyone and see how his pit crew quits on him and how he has no friends. And I’ve got this movie pegged, simple redemption story. Owen Wilson learned some humility, small time values and a group of friends, yada, yada, yada, wins the big race in the end. Bada bing, ba boom. Wait a minute. What’s this? A story about the economics of urban development and highway infrastructure. White. What? I thought this was a movie about silly talking cars. You’ve tricked me, Pixar. You’ve tricked me into caring about the fictional town of Radiator Springs. The best thing that Cars does as a film is take a look at Radiator Springs at a macro level, giving the town itself a story arc and not just be the catalyst for Lightning McQueen’s redemption. Every story like this one needs a group of characters to show the hero the way, correct his or her mistakes, and provide an outlet to redeem him or herself.
It’s an essential part of any redemption story. The danger is that they can sometimes become plot devices instead of actual characters. Thankfully, cars approaches us in a much more intelligent way, building a parallel community development story alongside Lightning McQueen personal one. And it’s not presented as being so simple as the town needing a hero to swoop in and fix all their problems. For them, paving the road isn’t just about having a shiny new road. There’s an underlying self-esteem issue there. This is a town that is used to being rejected, used to scaring off every visitor who wanders in. When McQueen finishes the first section of road, the first thing Luján Guido do is look at their own store and decide they want to spruce things up. They start to buy into the idea that, yeah, maybe there is is a town worth fixing and they fix it themselves. Now, I’ll be frank, the plot of cars runs dangerously close. The Hallmark Channel territory telling the story of an arrogant city boy who needs to learn some small time values and settle down with a nice girl or a car, whatever. Letting Sally tell the story of Route 66, Interstate 40 in Radiator Springs adds extra context.
It makes the setting feel like a real world location with an actual history. You start rooting for the town. Seeing it refurbished and relit in his fluorescent lights is quite beautiful and easily the biggest feel good part of the film. Hey, you can’t go wrong with a movie with a boom in it, right?
Now, as much as I praise the Radiator Springs part of the story, this is actually a movie about Lightning McQueen himself, so we should probably focus more on him. Lord knows that’s what he would want. I admit I find myself a little underwhelmed by his journey overall, but I have trouble pinpointing exactly why, because it’s not like cars does anything particularly badly with his character progression. The opening race scene tells us everything we need to know about him, the way hot dogs that plays to the crowd and how he refuses to listen to his pit crews advice, how he hugs all the credit and puts in the bare minimum effort for his sponsor.
Casting Owen Wilson for this role is pretty much perfect. He’s excellent at hitting that blend of smugness, sarcasm and extreme self-confidence that is needed for this character. The thing is, and I can’t believe I’m making this observation, but I feel like this is one of those rare examples where they might have foreshadowed things a little too much. While all these aspects quickly establishes character, they also heavily telegraphed where things are going.
You immediately know it’s a redemption story, meaning will most certainly see a less obnoxious version of anybody in his pit crew leaving him. And his admission that he has no friends makes it evident that he will most certainly have a new smiling pit crew by the conclusion they set up the main antagonist early on as a dirty racer who bumps other cars off the road. All these elements generally work overall and don’t contain plot holes. There was just a layer of predictability that makes the story feel less fresh than it should. I think if there were other plot threads going on, I probably wouldn’t have noticed this as much.
In general, I do like the motifs about tires and rust that they establish early on. Like, I absolutely love the idea that Lightning McQueen is a spokesperson for Medicated Bumper Whittman. It’s about the most embarrassing kind of product that a car could endorse, but also ties in nicely with Mayder establishing early on how uncomfortable McQueen is around rusty cars. They also make a big deal about McQueen not getting new tires during the pit stop, which explains why we play such big roles in the story. Guido gets the important job of the super quick tire change at the end. So Pixar gives these two more face time than the rest of the secondary characters. They want to make it clear that without tires, a racer is basically nothing. It does seem strange how in a movie about fast racing cars and amazing scenery and locations, they would chain themselves to having to fix a road. There was an instinct to go fast, but the story requires us to go as slow as possible. If the goal was to make me empathize with McQueen during these scenes, they have certainly succeeded. I am ready for something new. To their credit, they’re pretty good about letting McQueen go on random field trips throughout the story to break up that exciting road paving action. Doc challenges him to a race or takes him out tractor tipping and Sally takes him out on a drive through the desert.
Sally is a solid character overall, but she does suffer a little bit from being stuck in a traditional romantic comedy as a character by herself. Sally is a great addition to the film. She’s smart, conscientious in the voice of reason in the town. She has a deep love for Radiator Springs and is still young and optimistic enough to push everyone towards change. Unfortunately, she’s trapped in that romantic comedy, which is a real shame for a cool character like her. They do the old story, the love interest who cannot stand the hero at first. But eventually she was won over because of reasons.
The whole romance follows a very predictable pattern and is in general kind of dull. I’m not sure if I’m just biased because they’re cars and love and I’d prefer them to be cute little robots like an WOLLY, but I find myself not caring about them as a couple. The film gives way more face time to developing than the Queen and made her friendship, making the actual romance feel relatively unimportant.
I probably shouldn’t knock the storyline too much, however, because it does lead to a gorgeous montage of the two cars racing down Route 66. This scene is absolutely breathtaking. One of the scenes that reminds you how far the studio had come since the original Toy Story. I like how it sinks up with the montage at the beginning of the film. As Mack drives the highway to California, it goes from being a celebration of making good time on the highway to one about having a good time on Route 66. Moving on, it’s probably time we talk about that tow truck that seems to get so much attention. Mader was the breakout character from the first Cars movie, but also has the most detractors. Maybe it’s just the Larry the cable guy thing. Maybe it’s because he’s the obvious comic relief. I personally like Mater. I think the hate went way too far on him. The middle section of this movie has a lot of unhappy or serious characters in it. Lightning McQueen is miserable, paving the road. Sherifa is stuck watching him doc as being as crotchety self mader add some much needed levity to the mix, always trying to look at the bright side or just kind of hanging around and saying charming, rustic things. He doesn’t really move the plot that much, aside from teaching McQueen how to drive backwards in the ways of the town.
That being said, he is a major player, possibly the key player in Lightning McQueen, learning to stop being such a cynical putz for as much bravado and self-confidence that he projects. McQueen is essentially a lonely soul, a celebrity surrounded by thousands of admirers, but no actual friends made her proclaiming that he is his best friend so easily and so readily is bound to do something to McQueen. Their friendship is developed nicely in the story, with most of it being through random chitchat.
Their game of tractor tipping is one of the more memorable moments in the movie, leading to an exciting chasing as gimmicked has made or might be as a character. I think he’s executed really well overall and fits perfectly with the themes established. I am not surprised in the least that they let him take center stage in cars to Doc Hudson is another great addition to the movie, with Paul Newman giving a superb performance in one of his final roles. He really brings a lot of maturity and gravitas to the role he gives the character credibility you really believe in when he’s giving those words of wisdom. They do a nice job foreshadowing his real identity during the court scene with Doc already knowing all about race cars and initially Sonny McQueen or what. I also like the psychological angle that after suffering such a terrible crash, Doc would take up the field of medicine. That feels like a pretty big coincidence that the Hudson Hornet is hiding out in this random town. But I feel like the story needs someone who can speak from actual experience. He becomes the father figure in the film. Teaching McQueen important life lessons and skills he can use in the future does feel a little like those sports movies.
Sometimes, though, where the hero learns a skill that will obviously be used in the finale. The drifting left turn is basically Lightning McQueen’s crane kick. I feel like the backwards driving thing is handled better overall since it doubles as a joke. Speaking of which, the jokes are pretty solid across the board, although I wouldn’t classify it as one of the funniest pixels made or brings a lot of the fun, such as in the aforementioned tractor tapping scene and various other town residents contribute as well. A lot of them are pretty one dimensional, but the stick they have generally work.
We’ve got a low rider, Joe’s hippie drug jokes, Italian jokes, military jokes, etc., etc. The car selection designs are all hilarious and perfect.
Yeah, they’re all caricatures when it comes down to it. But as a Greek chorus, they do the job well enough.
The tone of cars is kind of a surprising one in general because they ended up putting together a very down to earth and easygoing film.
When you look at the design of the characters, you expect something a little wackier and fast paced than this. Maybe this is an unfair observation on my part, but I feel like their designs are inherently goofy with those big ol windshield eyes. They clash clashes a bit with the more serious tone. I feel like it’s hard to act out dramatic scenes when all the actors are wearing clown makeup. I read a psychological study about how humans more easily empathize with things that have faces. And I wonder if that’s affecting me here. Yeah, the characters in cars have faces, but they’re untraditional ones with themselves. At the end of their hoods. A lot of the character acting has to be done through the eyes, which isn’t horrible, I guess, since the eyes are the windows to the soul and all. But it gives the animators a smaller set of expressions they can play with. Mater is the best animated character in this since his design, with his teeth and giant eyes and toe hook. Give them a lot to play with. I imagine it was an unusually huge challenge for the character animators to make all the expressions feel unique and emotive.
In general, I feel like the designs are better suited to a strict comedy. Overall, the direction they took for cars to which is much more comedy focused makes a lot of sense to me.
Getting back to the story again, the final race ends up being an exciting one. Despite all my grumblings about predictability, all the major themes show up in the end, Lightning McQueen as a new pit crew comprised of his new friends. He opts for the tire change he drives backwards. He does the skidding left turn. The villain continues to drive dirty. And in the end, Lightning McQueen understands that famous, fleeting and winning is not everything. He ends up rejecting Domenikos offer and sticks by the people who believed in him. Lightning McQueen sets up his headquarters in Radiator Springs, helping bring in new traffic to the community.
Also, Maner gets to ride in a helicopter. Harare’s all around.
As inevitable as some of this might seem, even I have to admit there is probably no other way this movie could have ended. A character so obsessed with success and prestige at the beginning can’t win the big race. In the end, they just can’t. The redemption arc has to be about something bigger. Pixar ended up putting together a good, solid ending to the story engine they had built. Overall, cars takes a fairly traditional story concept and executes it in a very thoughtful way, I think thoughtful is the word I would use to describe this film as a whole. I don’t necessarily want to suggest that because the core story type is traditional, that it inherently makes it inferior to others. I mean, a lot of other Pixar movies also are a take off. Some familiar ideas. A Bug’s Life is basically a Western. Finding Nemo turns into a road trip. Brave is about a rebellious member of royalty. The good dinosaur is a coming of age story. You could knock almost every Pixar movie if you want to look at it that way. Cars is a thoughtful film because it takes that familiar framework and incorporates its themes in a very deliberate way, it doesn’t just yada, yada, yada, all the character progression, hopefully by the change in the end, you know, it sets things up in advance and follows through on it actually shows its work.
We can see how Radiator Springs has change, Lightning McQueen, as well as how Lightning McQueen has changed Radiator Springs. Not exactly Shakespeare or anything, but give them a break. They’re talking cars. If talking cars can put together a film this fun and this thoughtful than I am totally fine with talking cars kotcheff.
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