Subtle moves make ‘Cars’ an enjoyable ride
“Subtle” might not be the first choice of words I’d use to describe any movie as bright and bold as “Cars,” but it makes sense in the long run.As strange as it might sound, subtlety consistently separates Pixar’s efforts, such as “Cars,” from those of SKG/Dreamworks: Both make movies that are gorgeous to look at, bursting with pop-culture jokes and guest voices, eager and earnest. But it’s almost as if Pixar understands that and lets its cleverness ride on the trip to a higher goal, while lesser studios feel the need to remind viewers of how clever they’re being.But Pixar’s wink-wink nudge-nudge approach slyly convinces moviegoers that the studio knows what it’s doing. When you make animation that approaches high art, like “The Incredibles,” viewers are more likely to forgive minor sins like knicking a plot – like the underrated 1991 Michael J. Fox … uh … vehicle “Doc Hollywood,” which forms the basic chassis for “Cars.”Perhaps if Fox was believable as a professional athlete, this is what “Doc Hollywood” would’ve ended up as: Young hotshot gets stuck doing community service while traveling from one metropolitan area to another. Owen Wilson plays the main character, race car Lightning McQueen, and Bonnie Hunt’s Porsche Carrera fills in for Julie Warner.But “Cars” isn’t shooting for the same peak as “Incredibles,” and so it’s forgivable that the plot seems almost ancillary to the visuals and the jokes. And they’re almost clever enough to justify the price of admission by themselves: Everything in the world of “Cars” is some sort of vehicle, from actual Volkswagen beetles to bovine tractors that make perfect targets for tipping.Another bit of fun is trying to place the voice talent – a lot easier and less satisfying in other movies that beat viewers over the head with clues. In addition to Paul Newman and Larry the Cable Guy (who only lapses and exhorts Lightning to “Get ‘er done!” once), there’s a slew of actual auto racing legends, from Mario Andretti to co-star Richard Petty (or “The Kang,” as they pronounce it in North Carolina).”Cars” might not be a classic for the ages, but it’s certainly an enjoyable summer ride.
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