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(Can be sung to “Life Is a Highway”)
A world of anthropomorphic cars
Is home to a cadre of racing stars.
Lightning McQueen is a young hotshot,
Who loves himself more than he ought.
For the Piston Cup, there’s a three-way tie,
And a rematch sends McQueen’s hopes awry.
A new west coast race will next week begin
For the world to see, of the three, who’ll win.
On his trip out west, McQueen somehow strays
Off the interstate to less traveled ways.
He ends up locked up in a town offbeat
For the damage done to the downtown street.
He is sentenced by the eccentric folk
To repair the road that he clearly broke,
And he cannot leave this abandoned place,
Though his whole career depends on that race.
Though he thinks it’s hell, he begins to grow
A few friendships here in this town so slow,
From Sally, a Porsche, who left speed behind,
To a sweet tow truck, who is unrefined.
There’s a car in town with a secret past;
Doc Hudson once was a racer fast.
When he crashed, he broke from the shallow sport
And has since been here in this dead resort.
In a race, he proves to the proud McQueen
That the young upstart is still plenty green.
On a trip nearby, Sally tells him too
Of Route 66 and the highway new.
Though the Interstate was a helpful deed,
All the tourists left for the sake of speed.
The forgotten town Radiator Springs
Just became one more of those bygone things.
When McQueen is done with the rebuilt road,
He feels more at home in this quaint abode,
But the paparazzi find him at last,
And he’s back to living his life so fast.
For the Piston Cup, the three racers race,
But his heart and mind’s in another place.
When his friends show up as his new pit crew,
They encourage him to know what to do.
An opponent races a bit too rough,
And McQueen then sees winning’s not enough.
With a sacrifice he’d have passed before,
He impresses all and earns so much more.
Though he did not win the desired crown,
More exposure helps to revive the town.
As a humbler, kinder, and wiser car,
It is clear McQueen’s happier by far.

I hate to say it, but Cars is a rip-off. It plagiarizes the plot of Doc Hollywood so obviously that it’s a wonder lawsuits weren’t begun. (There actually was a lawsuit against the Cars franchise, but it had nothing to do with Doc Hollywood and was dismissed.) The story of a cool guy in the fast lane, who is stranded in a backwards town full of kooky characters, including a city girl who prefers the slower life, and who ends up choosing rural happiness over urban success, is undeniably familiar. Yet Cars has enough original ideas, such as its core concept of living vehicles, to still be worthy of the Pixar name, and with its great animation and lack of anything objectionable, I actually like it a little better than Doc Hollywood.

However retreaded the plot may be, it’s still an excellent one. After all, who doesn’t like to see an arrogant jerk shown the error of his ways? Owen Wilson is perfectly cast as the cool-and-he-knows-it Lightning McQueen, and Larry the Cable Guy is Mater. More than any other character, Mater has become the Cars franchise, for better or worse, and because his later appearances have been less than stellar, it’s easy to forget how entertaining his country bumpkin persona was in the original film. Paul Newman brings some very real experience to both the cast and the film overall, and Bonnie Hunt as Sally again proves that she has a voice meant for voice acting. All of the other citizens of Radiator Springs have just the right amount of characterization, from George Carlin as the hippie VW bus Fillmore to Tony Shalhoub as the Ferrari-loving Fiat Luigi. The rest of the voice cast includes Michael Keaton, Paul Dooley, Cheech Marin, and NASCAR champ Richard Petty. Plus, you’ve got to love the cameo from Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers.

In addition to the ever-outstanding animation, the film also has that trademark Pixar heart. As intended from the start by director John Lasseter, Cars is like a love letter to the nostalgia of Route 66 and to all of the small towns that indeed were overlooked by the public’s desire for speed and convenience. Considering that it made me care for anthropomorphic automobiles, I’d say the film got its point across beautifully. While I continue to think that Lightning could have easily won the race and then gone back to help the King (he was only inches away after all), the lesson about winning isn’t everything is taught here better than any other film I’ve seen.

Cars may not be Pixar’s most popular film, and it spawned their only bad film to date, but it’s got enjoyable characters, a great soundtrack, plenty of car and animation in-jokes, and all the humor and heart of a classic.

Best line: (Sally, describing Route 66) “Well, the road didn’t cut through the land like that Interstate. It moved with the land, it rose, it fell, it curved. Cars didn’t drive on it to make great time. They drove on it to have a great time.”

Artistry: 7
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 8
Visual Effects: 10
Originality: 4
Watchability: 8
TOTAL: 46 out of 60

Next: #167 – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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