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June 12, 2006 - Image 9

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2006-06-12

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June 12, 2006




By Imran Syed
Daily Arts Writer
If Arnold Schwarzenegger was a
car, what kind of car would he be?
And what about Jay Leno? "Cars,"
Disney and Pix-
ar's latest foray
into the world of Cars
almost creepily At the Showcase
intricate anima- and Quality 16
tion, provides Disney/Pixar
the answers (a
Hummer and a
flat-faced Aston Martin, respec-
tively), as they once again create
vivid environments that somehow
seem more real than real life. But
while "Cars" is satisfying in a con-
ventional sense, it fails to match
the greatness of Pixar's best efforts
("Toy Story," "Monsters Inc."
and especially "Finding Nemo")
because it can't find the culture-
riffing, ultra-affable charm of the
studio's superior efforts.
Lightning McQueen (Owen
Wilson, "Wedding Crashers")
is a racecar, a young hot shot on
the verge of winning his circuit's
highest award, the Piston Cup.
But wouldn't you know it, he's
immature - a show off who takes
all the credit himself and has no
friends to boot. Then, on his way
to the racing season's big finale in
California, he gets lost and finds
himself stuck in a tranquil outpost
called Radiator Springs. There,
young Lightning briskly learns the

lessons that countless characters
in second-rate Disney films have
before him: You gotta be a team
player, winning isn't everything,
friendship rocks, etc.
As expected, the visual imagery
in the film is superb, impossibly
detailed and sometimes blurring
the line between live and animat-
ed shots. But it's now almost five
years since a CGI film could woo
audiences on visuals alone. "Cars"
finds a visual and narrative splen-
dor superior to "Chicken Little"
or "Madagascar," but it remains
a cut below elite animated films
because the lessons, morals and
characters of the film seem to be
an afterthought.
There is little ingenuity or cre-
ativity apparent in the characters'
personalities; they're all cars, and
we're supposed to think that that's
innovative enough. Not only does
the film lack the real sentimen-
tality that marks the very best of
Disney ("The Lion King"), the
signature quips and catchphrases
aren't even quotable ("catchow!" is
hardly an exception).
That said, Wilson, his charac-
teristic lazy drawl now infused
with cockiness and ignorance,
does inspire some laughs, espe-
cially when interplaying with
Tow-mater, his tow-truck pal in
Radiator Springs (Larry the Cable
Guy, "Blue Collar TV"). There's
also Luigi the tire salesman (Tony
Shalhoub, TV's "Monk"), whose
greatest dream is to meet a real-
life Ferrari (and then he meets

"Man, this ethanol Is great. Now we just need some Pink Floyd."

one - racing legend Michael
Schumacher), and the hippie '60s
minivan Filmore (George Carlin,
"Dogma"), who is convinced that
every third blink of a flashing
traffic light is slower. But oth-
ers among the accomplished cast
(Paul Newman, Michael Keaton,
Bonnie Hunt, etc.) are underused
and largely work to confuse and
further slow down an already-man-
gled, anticlimactic plotline.
Deep within the confusing
m6lange of sing-alongs, quirky
dialogue and a stop-and-go story-

line, there does seem to lie a genu-
ine point, though it's one the kids
won't pick up and the adults will
be too drowsy to notice. There is
compassion here for the good ol'
American life, a life that exists
no more thanks to the hectic pres-
sures of our modern world. Radia-
tor Springs is a ghost town because
it was bypassed by an interstate
highway, which catered to peo-
ple's incessant hurry to reach their
destinations. But if the film points
out the hollowness of the post-
industrial world, it fails to say

anything about it, opting instead
to motor forward at an ironically
blistering pace.
Pixar is said to have spent days
creating each animated frame of
the film, and it shows. But just as
big-budget blockbusters must thrill
with more than just special-effects-
laced explosions, Disney's story
department must live up to the
animators' prowess. They fail to
do so here, making for a beautiful,
briefly amusing affair that fails to
inspire anything lasting in either
kids or adults.

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