Movie Review: Cars (+ Bonus Pixar Review)

As a Pixar-file, I am ashamed to say I was missing three movies from the studio’s collection coming into today: Cars, Cars 2, and somehow, Ratatouille.  Feel free to yell at me for not having seen Ratatouille, but only if you have seen as many Pixar films as I have.  You are absolutely not allowed to get on your high horse otherwise.


I’m not going to do a straight review of Cars, because you’ve probably seen it.  It only made north of $461 million in theatres worldwide, and probably destroyed the home DVD market as well.  Let’s do this bullet-point style with likes and dislikes.  First, the bad news:

Things About Cars That Were Less Than Desirable

– Lightning McQueen.  Has Pixar ever had a more unlikable lead, at least for 60 to 75% of the movie?  I’m in the midst of Walter Isaacson’s spectacular Steve Jobs autobiography (which will be glowingly reviewed soon), and there’s an interesting note about the original conception of Woody in Toy Story.  He was a much harsher character at first, intentionally pushing Buzz out the window by himself, and even causing Tom Hanks to think the cowboy was a mean dude.  I feel like this is Lightning in Cars – for the vast majority of the movie, he only cares about himself, and his moment of character redemption comes quite late in the story line.

– No matter how many times Lightning says “Ka-chow,” it is never clever or enjoyable.  I can just imagine six-year-olds running around the house, yelling out “Ka-chow!” while punching the air and throwing their Matchbox toys across the room.

– Sheryl Crow to start?  John Mayer to end?  What happened to your good sense of music, Pixar?

– It lacks the usual imagination of Pixar movies.  This is a criticism of a studio being held to a very high standard.

Now, To A Lot More Good Things!

– First of all, the animation.  WOW.  It’s as impressive in Cars as in any Pixar movie I’ve seen, which is ridiculous to say.  Some of the shots in the film, such as the waterfall and the view over the interstate, are jaw-droppingly beautiful.

– I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I actually liked Larry The Cable Guy’s voicing in this.  Once Mater, his character, came in, I figured I was in for a long line of horrific puns and general redneckity.  But I actually got genuine humor.  How about that.

Larry sure got ‘r done. OK, I’ll punch myself in the face for that one.

– The races are basically NASCAR races, and the attention to detail at the racetracks is what you’ve come to expect from Pixar.

– The James Taylor song in the middle.  Whoa.  That song, coupled with the scene, packs the emotional punch of the film.

– Lots of funny jokes.  It’s a bit pun-heavy at times, but quite clever as well.

Cars is a familiar story, but it’s told well.  While Lightning’s character doesn’t develop for quite some time, it’s wholly enjoyable when he does.  I didn’t feel like the movie dragged at all.

Overall, this is typical beautifully-designed, well-told stuff.  It’s Pixar.  Need I say more?

Grade: A-

But you get a “C,” buddy.


I’ve been trying to figure out where Cars ranks in my list of Pixar films.  Now, ranking these is like ranking the albums of The Beatles – whatever’s near the bottom is still going to be phenomenal.  (Yellow Submarine = the Cars 2 of The Beatles?  Judging by reviews, at least.)  In other words, it’s like ranking the shot selection of Iman Shumpert in tonight’s Knicks/Grizzlies game, only the complete opposite.

Feel free to leave your arguments and lists in the comments.  I imagine I’ll have some strong differences with some, but here goes nothing…

10. A Bug’s Life – Haven’t seen it in years, though I thought it was good but not great…hey, something’s gotta be last.

9. Toy Story 2 – The least fantastic of the trilogy.

8. Cars – See above.  I’m not going to type anything else about this, come on.  You want me to waste my time and yours with lots of meaningless words?  That would be silly.  Now clearly you don’t know me if you think this will be anything other than concise.

7. Monsters, Inc. – Skeptical about a sequel, because Pixar’s a mere 2-for-3 on sequels right now.  Wait, that’s still remarkably good.

6. Finding Nemo  – I definitely need to see this again, because I do NOT remember Willem Dafoe’s voice.  And that is probably enough to put the movie in first place.

5. WALL-E – Bold, visionary, and a gorgeous love story.  And there are four movies to go.

4. The Incredibles – This is agonizing stuff.  This movie is just about perfect, and I can’t rank it any higher than fourth place.  The best superhero movie ever made, non Christopher Nolan-division. #fanboyalert #thefirerises #banesoundslikeasoberozzyosbourne

3. Toy Story – Will go down as one of the defining films of my childhood, and the childhood of anyone who is my age.  And this is THIRD.  THIRD!  HOW DO THEY DO THIS?

2. Up – Agonizingly sad at times, and painfully funny at others.  Ed Asner as Carl the old man might be the single best voice actor casting in Pixar history.  Dug the dog is one of the great Pixar creations as well.  So is the concept of a house floating away on balloons.  I am almost crying thinking of this.  Good grief, this movie is out of control good.  Can I really put this second?  Will I cop out and tie this for first?  Is it bad that I sometimes ignore my girlfriend because she has a stuffed Dug the dog?  And can a falling icicle really kill someone?  Find out NEXT – on Mythbusters!

1. Toy Story 3 –



In my opinion, the single greatest scene to date in any Pixar movie (and again, I haven’t seen Ratatouille or Cars 2) is when the toys are in the incinerator and all hold hands to face certain death together.  It is an almost unbelievable wave of emotions.  I don’t cry at movies – it’s nothing manly or anything, I just don’t – but this is probably as close as I’ve come.  Just remarkable.  For a second, you say to yourself “Can Pixar actually do this?  Can they kill these toys off?”  Of course, they never could, and there is a legitimate 0% chance of that happening – but in the moment, the emotions that override…they’re just astonishing.  This is an absolute masterpiece, and I don’t know why I haven’t bought it yet.  The ending scene is also an insane emotional crescendo, and the new characters are hilarious, and…it’s just perfect.  Toy Story 3 is really just a perfect film.  I can’t say a single bad thing about it.



TOMORROW: Something I will say more than a single bad thing about…¡Rob!   Prepare for a likely trifecta of poor acting, racism and Rob Schneider!


2 responses to “Movie Review: Cars (+ Bonus Pixar Review)

  1. Kevin, you ridiculous bastard. Wall-E is the greatest love story of our time, and it deserves the #1 spot AND features THE greatest Pixar song selection (Put on Your Sunday Clothes from “Hello Dolly”).

    I thought the beginning and ending scene to Up was outstanding, but didn’t find myself all that flabbergasted like everyone else. The end did crush my icy black heart, though so I can’t argue too hard. Ratatouille (sp?) is super good and belongs in the top 5 of this list. SEE IT. It’s got Patton Oswalt!

    Enjoying the site so far, keep up the good work. My mother won’t shut up about it.

    • I feel like a horrible person for having placed it fifth. I just didn’t know where else I could put it. And I do love me some Patton Oswalt.
      I look forward to hearing your mom not shut up about it at the wedding tonight.

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