Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is a feisty, self centred rookie racing car aiming to win the ultra prestigious Piston Cup against his two chief rivals, the veteran King (Richard Petty) and the mean hearted, ever-second Chick (Michael Keaton). When he's waylaid in the little town of Radiator Springs on Route 66, bypassed by the new interstate highway, he gets into trouble and detained on community service. Anxious to get to the big race in Los Angeles, Lightning is befriended by the rusty tow-truck, Mater (Larry The Cable Guy) and the attractive solicitor Sally Carrera (Bonnie Hunt) who helps him in court. They, plus the local judge with a secret past, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) and the other townfolk, teach Lightning some values he was missing, before he heads off to race for the Cup.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Cars is a brilliantly executed movie with a well tuned screenplay built on the simple but evergreen character elements that gave old Hollywood its golden glow: decent human values. The good, the badly mangled and the ugly are all embraced as valuable members of the community, and winning hearts earns greater status than winning prizes.
Lightning (Owen Wilson) is a likeable but shallow, self centred show pony of a racing car who sees winning as the only thing of value. When his selfishness gets him off the beaten track and into trouble, he is ordered to make good the damage he's done. In the process, he is befriended by the community's ugliest member, the busted and rusted, low brow tow-truck, Mater - rhymes with tomater - marvellously voiced by Larry The Cable Guy. Mater, a symbol of sincerity, is an example to Lightning, as is old Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) who is the town's wise old judge, hiding a secret that surprises and humbles Lightning.
The community spirit worn effortlessly by the pretty blue Porsche, ex-big city lawyer Sally Carrera (Bonnie Hunt) also engages the young rookie, leading to a romantic possibility the screenplay toys with for our amusement.
The hardship caused to the town by the freeway taking all their passing traffic trade, and the brief reflection that people used to travel from A to B to enjoy the trip, not to shorten it, also supports the film's overall moral tone, which helps give the entire story some depth. Lightning's willingness to learn and his ultimate act of decency on the race track drive home these positive messages, but to their credit, John Lasseter and his writers never forget to have fun at every opportunity. One memorably funny scene (later reprised with a twist) has Mater and Lightning playing a mischievous game one night among the local tractors, who are portrayed as the equivalent of dullard cows.
Inventive and witty, Cars is a well oiled Pixar movie-machine that deserves its victory lap.
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VOICES: Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, Paul Newman, Larry The Cable Guy, Tony Shalhoub, Michael Keaton, Cheech Marin, Richard Petty, Paul Dooley, Bob Costas, George Carlin, John Ratzenberger
PRODUCER: Darla K. Anderson
DIRECTOR: John Lasseter
SCRIPT: Dan Fogelman, John Lasseter
EDITOR: Ken Schretzman
MUSIC: Randy Newman (Bruno Coon, song)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Visual Development: H.B. 'Buck' Lewis
RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 8, 2006