After peaking at such a great height with "The Incredibles," Pixar could have come plummeting downwards, with reviews focusing on how the mighty have fallen. Yet "Cars," Pixar's newest venture with Disney, is right on par with the quality one expects from the studio; with all the same fun, depth and heart we've come to expect since Woody first came to life on screen in "Toy Story."
"Cars" is about cars. Cars that can talk, laugh, lose teeth, love and some how build complex machinery and houses (but worrying about that part is kind of pointless). Specifically we follow Lightning McQueen, voiced by Owen Wilson, a hot-shot race car who gets stuck, on his way to a race, re-paving a road in a small town somewhere off of Route 66 in America's southwest.
Here he meets a ramshackle cast of characters including Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) a rusted old pick up who is a few lug nuts short of an engine; Sally Carrera (Bonnie Hunt), a high-end Porsche whom McQueen falls for; and Doc Hudson, voiced by Paul Newman.
McQueen learns the usual life lessons of friendship and being humble as he befriends the locals through each scene — a bout of tractor tipping leads to a touching moment of friendship few real actors could capture.
The nostalgia for small town America and a simpler time may be lost on most of today's children, but it doesn't keep the adults seeing the film from remembering when winding across the country was part of the vacation — not an annoying side note.
In "Cars," that country has never looked more gorgeous.
Director John Lasseter and his Pixar team capture the beauty and grandeur of the American southwest better than actual photographs could have. Here Pixar is head-over-heels better than any of the competition when it comes to animating with feelings. There is another level of care behind their animation that create characters that stick with you beyond the length of the film.
What is disappointing about "Cars" is that while it's technologically the most impressive of Pixar's animated triumphs, it isn't the best story. All the same heart and feeling are there but it doesn't grab you as well as "Finding Nemo" or take you with it as impressively as "The Incredibles."
Of course, comparing great Pixar movies to incredible Pixar movies is pointless — both are worth seeing in the end, and your kids aren't going to care anyway.