July 1st, 2006 at 10:26 pm (Movies)
I couldn’t work up any real enthusiasm about going to see Cars, but in the end I enjoyed it far more than I had expected.
My lack of interest was less to do with the fact that it was about cars, and more because it seemed like a standard version of the conceited-loudmouth-meets-innocent-countryfolk-and-becomes-a-nicer-person plot. I’m not actually a big fan of this plot. (When I said this to Michael, his response was “What about Pride and Prejudice?”, but I don’t think that’s quite the same – Darcy is not changed by the innocent Meryton villagers (who aren’t particularly innocent anyway), but rather by Elizabeth’s intelligence and wit and willingness to say what she thinks of him. So it’s not really the same.)
But Cars does have exactly the redeemed-by-innocents plot, so I was all set to dislike it. And for the most part, there wasn’t really a lot to it. But the thing that made the difference – at least for me – was that there were a few brief moments in the early part of the film, where you saw that maybe there was a nice person underneath Lightning’s unpleasant exterior. I thought the opening (black screen, with him focusing for the race) was quite strong, and also the brief second when he realised that he didn’t actually have any friends. But the one that I really liked was the bit when you saw him back at the dirt track, trying over and over and over again to take the corner properly. To me, it showed that he wasn’t just about the glory of winning – he really did have a passion for doing it as well as he possibly could (even though at this stage he didn’t respond well to constructive criticism).
A lot of the quirky characters didn’t really do it for me – for the most part, I found them only mildly amusing, and rather one-note. Though I did enjoy Luigi and Guido (even though I have to admit they were also rather one-note), and I thought Doc Hudson was really good. I was a bit disappointed with Sally: I thought maybe she could have had a bit more bite, particularly in the earlier parts of the film.
Naturally, the animation was just superb. Pixar gets better and better with every film. And in spite of the fact that much of it was predictable, I did find the final race sequence very exciting and dramatic, and quite moving at times.
I’m a little conflicted about the ending of the film. Yes, it was nice, and sweet, and wonderful, and really the only possible ending. And yet … in the real world, what are the chances that a small town, been bypassed by the Interstate, would actually get a new lease of life? Pretty remote, I’d have thought. So while I could be happy for the characters in the film, it had the added (unintentional, I’m sure) effect of making me sad for the fact that it would not actually happen in real life.