Every review for a PIXAR movie goes like this "fantastic computer animation...good funny, family-safe story...amazing amount of emotion." And the reason for this? Because every PIXAR film is of incredibly high quality. Cars is no different. PIXAR is the only film studio to churn out continuous hits, both critically and commercially. This is far outside the norm. The reason this happens is because they know that in any movie, no matter what the medium (traditional or computer animation, drama, comedy, romance), the story and the characters are the most important element of the movie. PIXAR movies have stories that are basic at their core, but have universal themes that everybody can identify with.

The story here is simple. An arrogant jerk learns about how to care for other people. Simple as that. But Cars is so much more. Cars is the first movie John Lasseter (Toy Story 2, A Bug's Life) has directed since 1999. He co-wrote the story with Joe Ranft (Fantasia 2000, A Bug's Life), who co-directed, Dan Fogelman, Jorgen Klubein (A Bug's Life, Mulan), Phil Lorin, and Keil Murray. This is probably one of the few instances where many writers does not equal bad screenplay. Each of these writers really loved their characters, and it shows in the amount of detail they put into their personalities. These animated cars have more depth to them than many live action movie characters.

The arrogant car is Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson, Wedding Crashers, Meet the Fockers). There is something about Wilson's whiny voice that makes him perfect in the role of an arrogant rookie racecar. After just one year on the circuit, McQueen finds himself tied in the final race with two other racing legends. The tiebreaker will be held in one week in California, with the prized Piston Cup going to the winner. McQueen finds himself in the dusty town of Radiator Springs, off historic Route 66, where he has to fix a road he damaged. There, nobody knows who he is, or cares that he's such a great racecar. Like most PIXAR films, Radiator Springs is full of colorful character. Doc Hudson (voiced by Paul Newman, Road to Perdition, Where the Money Is), a 1951 Hudson Hornet, is the de facto leader of the town. Amongst the townspeople are newcomer Sally Carrera (voiced by Bonnie Hunt, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, Loggerheads) and Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, Blue Collar Comedy Tour). McQueen wants to get out of town as soon as possible. He doesn't notice that everybody is a family and cars for each other.

Cars begins a bit slowly. Lasseter and crew take time to allow their audience to know the characters, as well as have enough time for McQueen to fall in love with the town and his residents. And Radiator Springs is a beautiful place. Not only did Lasseter pay attention to character details, but the detail in the animation is stunning. The landscapes are all reminiscent of automobile parts, and Carrera's hotel rooms are a bunch of oversized traffic cones. Small things like the dust on McQueen (none when he's racing, lots when he's in Radiator Springs) as well as small rocks on the edge of the racetracks, demonstrate the commitment to quality that the film has. The animation for every film is better than the last, and Cars is a beautiful film to just gape at. But it all goes back to the story. McQueen's transformation from jerk to something better is believable and emotional. There is the right mix of tender emotions and sight gags, mixed in with some thrilling racing sequences. Topping it off is a great sequence during the final credits with John Ratzenberger (Something New, The Incredibles).

Haro Rates It: Really Good.
1 hour, 54 minutes, Rated G.

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