Imagine a world where there are no human beings and all the worlds populations in all the countries and continents are cars or vehicles of some form that all have their own personality, well once you get over that concept then you have a rather enjoyable film that took me completely by surprise. The film is produced by Pixar who have previously delivered the Toy Story trilogy and The Incredibles have again given a multi level film that the kids will enjoy and the adults will cherish given the humour and the extremely impressive high quality that has been presented.
The plot is a good one, Lightning McQueen is a rookie race car, having just been in a three-way tie means that a race off has to take place a week later to decide the overall winner of the Piston Cup. To get to the track on time means that an overnight journey of driving across country has to take place and en route to California McQueen literally falls off the back of the lorry thanks to a gang of cars (that look like that have just been lifted from The Fast and The Furious). The gang play gentle soothing music that sends Mack the carrier to sleep as his going along the road; accidentally McQueen is let loose out of the back of the carrier rolling across junctions, narrowly missing vehicles and ends up in the backwater of a town called Radiator Springs. On his arrival in the town McQueen causes havoc and as punishment has to resurface the main road through the town. The first thing that got me was the similarities to the Michael J Fox film Doc Hollywood, in fact the plot, the actions and the ending are the same. However the different thing is that this is a lot more enjoyable to watch given the lengths the writers have gone to get this film made and to inject a lot of humour that doesn’t detract from the story.
Given the writing and the general feel good feel of the film it has to be said that the voice artists that take part in the film have added that extra dimension that makes the characters of the animation come to life that little bit more. I’m not a great fan of Owen Wilson as I personally think that he is a one trick pony in the majority of his films and plays the same characters throughout. Thankfully here we don’t get to see him and just hear him instead; he plays Lightning McQueen an enthusiastic, arrogant yet energetic young contender for the Piston Cup, and whilst being trapped in Radiator Springs has the epiphany that he discovers just who he is and what he has to offer others around him. Wilson plays the part well and doesn’t necessarily over play the part at all. Wilson comes into his own when McQueen is competing as you hear the voice change.
Sadly this was Paul Newman’s last film before he passed away and the role that Newman plays of Doc Hudson is integral for the evolution of McQueen. To be honest I didn’t even recognise it was Newman till half way through the film. Doc Hudson is the older and far more mature car in the film and can be seen as the mentor to others around him. Given Newman’s involvement in car racing in was a good choice to have him as a voice artist in the film.
Backing up these two are a cast that may not be well known by name but are recognisable in person, Micheal Keaton who played Batman, Bonnie Hunt who is a Pixar regular and Tony Shalhoub, who some will remember was the lead in the TV series Monk. There is also a part of McQueen’s agent called Harv, played by Jeremy Clarkson. It is strange to hear his voice on-screen as you never see the character he plays and therefore just hear a voice. A voice that you can tell is reading the script as he says it.
The thing that I like about a good Pixar film is that the colours are bright and every scene is a master piece with regards to the way it is drawn and presented to the audience. In essence this helps build a picture of a familiar world to the audience but with a lot of differences in which the world is populated. Every vehicle whether it’s a car or plane has its own character and look that is unique to the vehicle itself and although throughout the film you never see a door open or a scene inside a car at all, it does tend to make you think what is actually inside. In fact even the windscreens are used as the face and this provides an area for features such as frowning and even so the level of characterisation that can be given to car is virtually endless. The appearance of the cars themselves are based mainly on 1950’s vehicles, this applies to the cars in Radiator Springs which as a sub plot has its own problems that McQueen can help out with especially as the town has recently been bi-passed for a new interstate highway. McQueen is the catalyst of the story for change and even though he has caused a whole heap of trouble for the townsfolk, he can also be the person that causes the change for the best.
The animation is smooth, extremely smooth, and again looks to have taken a significant leap when comparing the style to The Incredibles. In the scenes set at the races, each frame has so much happening in it as the whole complex is full of cars in the same way that humans would occupy a venue of this nature and there is a cacophony of sound and colour that is in such abundance that you cannot help but to take it in with your eyes moving all about the screen as the story opens. This is also the longest offering that Pixar have made and at 117 minutes in length is a good way of spending two hours, I was expecting the film to drag throughout the middle section, but was surprised when I looked at the clock and saw that I had only 20 minutes left! The pace is at a good aped and yes the film does deviate from the main story now and then as other factors come in and get introduced into the mix. My favourite being the tractors who seem to be a target of the Towtruck, yet even they are given there opportunity to get revenge with the help of the Combine Harvester and this just goes to show that everyone plays a part in the story, which is well scripted.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed it, I knew that as a Pixar film that it was going to be quality piece of entertainment, yet I didn’t expect that that I would enjoy this as much as I did. The manner in which the characters integrate with each other whether its through dialogue or actions on screen is fluid in its movement and with the addition of a car based soundtrack then the film is the complete package of entertainment and a film that I would watch again and again and one that I can watch as a guilty pleasure without the kids being with me.
It’s a small wonder why Disney decided to buy Pixar after the release of this film. Cars 2 is on its way!