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John Lasseter, Joe Ranft
Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry The Cable Guy, Cheech Marin, Tony Shalhoub, Guido Quaroni, Jenifer Lewis
Writing Credits:
Dan Fogelman, John Lasseter (and story), Joe Ranft (and story), Kiel Murray, Phil Lorin, Jorgen Klubien (and story)

Life is a journey. Enjoy the trip.

Hotshot rookie race car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is living life in the fast lane until he hits a detour on his way to the most important race of his life. Stranded in Radiator Springs, a forgotten town on the old Route 66, he meets Sally, Mater, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), and a variety of quirky characters who help him discover that there's more to life than trophies and fame.

Box Office:
$120 million.
Opening Weekend
$60.119 million on 3985 screens.
Domestic Gross
$244.052 million.

Rated G

Widescreen 2.35:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0

Runtime: 116 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 11/7/2006

• “Mater and the Ghostlight” Short
• “One Man Band” Short
• “Epilogue”
• “The Inspiration for Cars” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Sneak Peeks


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Cars (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 6, 2006)

Maybe someday the folks at Pixar will make a misstep, but that didn’t happen with 2006’s Cars. Not only did the movie rake in megabucks – it grossed a solid $243 million – but also it provided a relentlessly fun and entertaining experience. Who knew a flick about anthropomorphized autos could be so delightful?

Cars introduces us to Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), a rising star on the racing circuit. On the way to a big competition in California, he falls out of his tractor-trailer and ends up stuck in Radiator Springs, a burg bypassed by the rest of the world. Lightning accidentally grinds up the town’s main street, so as punishment, Judge Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) requires him to repave the road.

Lightning greatly resents these impediments, but he doesn’t have much choice. Stuck in the sleepy burg, he gets to know the residents and starts to grow attached to them. These include retired racer Doc, one-time hotshot lawyer Sally Carrera (Bonnie Hunt), and tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). The film follows Lightning’s interactions with them as well as his attempts to get to the big race.

Sure, Cars gives us a story that borrows liberally from 1991’s Doc Hollywood. Sure, it occasionally seems more preoccupied with product placement and shiny visuals. Sure, a lot of the characters suffer from fairly lackluster development.

All of those things occur to the viewer only after the screen goes dark, and even then, they don’t provoke any angst. As Cars runs, it offers so much entertainment and razzle-dazzle that any of these minor flaws fall by the wayside. This is a bright and delightful piece of work.

Cars is the first flick in seven years to feature Pixar head honcho John Lasseter as director. He helmed the studio’s first three big screen offerings: 1995’s Toy Story, 1998’s A Bug’s Life and 1999’s Toy Story 2. Others took on the next three efforts before Lasseter finally returned for the studio’s seventh movie.

I regard his first three films as arguably Pixar’s best. Only 2004’s The Incredibles deserves consideration among Lasseter’s works, as I’m not all that wild about 2001’s Monsters Inc. or 2003’s Finding Nemo. Does Cars threaten to turn into one of Pixar’s best? I want to wait until I’ve had more screenings to come to a “final” conclusion, but right now I like it an awful lot.

When compared to the other Pixar flicks, Cars probably most closely resembles A Bug’s Life. That one also borrowed heavily from the story of another film – Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai - but it was so much fun that I didn’t care.

The same holds true for Cars. One could easily nit-pick and find flaws in this flick. In addition to the plot it borrows from Doc Hollywood, no one will claim that any of the characters stand out as particularly original. They’re pretty stock personalities without elements that make them especially creative.

Nonetheless, they come across as likable and winning. Pixar sure scores some points with the presence of Paul Newman as crusty old Doc Hudson. Newman doesn’t act much these days, but it’s clearly not because he’s lost his touch. He brings the right touch of gruffness measured with warmth and authority to the part. He scores the needed laughs but manages to offer a nicely three-dimensional turn.

All the other actors do fine as well, and we even find a pleasant surprise. I scoffed when I saw that lowest-common-denominator comedian Larry the Cable Guy would appear in the film, but he offers a pretty funny performance as Mater. Larry channels the late Jim Varney – a Pixar fave – but manages to come across as more than just an imitator. Mater becomes a very likable and fun character due to Larry’s solid work.

In the end, I don’t want to spend too much time on a discussion of Cars just because it’s not a film that holds up to great scrutiny. Regard this as a movie for which the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. One could easily pick it apart, but why bother when you can have so much fun instead?

Footnote: be sure to stay all the way through the end credits.

The DVD Grades: Picture A+/ Audio A-/ Bonus C+

Cars appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Like all its Pixar predecessors, Cars offered an absolutely excellent visual experience.

Sharpness seemed immaculate. If any problems occurred, I didn’t see them. I thought the movie looked consistently crisp and well-defined. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no signs of edge enhancement. Source flaws also were absent, as the film showed no marks of any sort.

Cars went with a very vivid palette that the DVD replicated well. The tones always came across as dynamic and lively, as the disc showed excellent color accuracy. Blacks were dark and dense, while shadows seemed clear and appropriately visible. This was a simply outstanding transfer that lacked any flaws.

While not quite as terrific as the visuals, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Cars also worked well. With only one slight exception, the soundfield was quite effective. Lots of localized speech occurred, most of which seemed well-placed. A few lines from the left lacked great delineation, but those were exceptions, as most of the dialogue was appropriately located.

Effects always seemed accurately placed, and the meshed together neatly. This was an active mix that used all five speakers to good advantage. This was particularly evident in the racing scenes, but other sequences added good kick and action across the various channels. The movie made nice use of the environment to create a vivid setting.

Audio quality was solid. Speech seemed natural and concise, with no edginess or other problems. Music sounded lively and dynamic, while effects were consistently accurate and vivid. Bass response was low and firm. Despite the minor distractions from the occasionally mushy localization of dialogue, I thought the audio of Cars succeeded.

Unlike prior Pixar DVDs, Cars skimps on extras. We find two separate shorts. A new one called Mater and the Ghostlight fills seven minutes and eight seconds. It stars the movie’s lovable tow truck as he plays practical jokes on the other residents of Radiator Springs and then gets his comeuppance. It’s not a classic, but it’s an entertaining little piece.

The second short ran prior to theatrical screenings of Cars. One Man Band lasts four minutes, 32 seconds, and shows a heated competition between two street musicians as they vie for the donation of a little girl. This one proves mighty amusing.

Under the “Bonus Features” banner, we get a four-minute and 17-second Epilogue. This lets us see the animated elements from the end credits without the text. I like this feature since it allows us to get a clearer view of the material.

The Inspiration for Cars runs 16 minutes and two seconds as it features movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from director John Lasseter, author/speaker Michael Wallis, co-director Joe Ranft, barber Angel Valades Delgadillo, Lasseter’s father Paul, racecar driver Jerry Nadeau, Infineon Raceway president/general manager Steve Page, broadcaster Darrell Waltrip, self-appointed Mayor of Redneck Hill “The Real Mater”, Lowe’s Motor Speedway president/GM Humpy Wheeler, racing legend Tim Flock’s son Don, Speedway Motorsports Inc.’s John Zudell and Randy Wray, and racing legend Richard Petty.

“Inspiration” looks at research behind the movie. We see how the Pixar folks learned about Route 66 and NASCAR. We also learn a lot about the personal influences that affected Lasseter. While “Inspiration” doesn’t substitute for a full “Making Of” documentary, it offers a nice taste of the factors that were behind the film.

Four Deleted Scenes occupy a total of 10 minutes, 33 seconds. These include “Top Down Truck Stop” (3:51), “Lost” (1:44), “Community Service” (3:15) and “Motorama Girls” (1:43). “Truck Stop” offers an alternate way for Mack and Lightning to separate, while “Lost” finds him spooked in a car graveyard. Dream sequence “Service” transforms Lightning into a steamroller and “Girls” shows us how Flo and Ramone became a couple. All of these appear via storyreels that combine filmed art and audio. The four are quite interesting and fun to see.

A few ads open the DVD. We find promos for Ratatouille, Peter Pan and Meet the Robinsons. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with ads for the Cars video game and Disney’s Blu-ray releases.

Pixar continues their incredible winning streak with the delightful Cars. Thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable, this one turns out to be a consistent joy. The DVD lacks many extras, but it gives us excellent picture and audio. I definitely regard this fun movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1891 Stars Number of Votes: 37
4 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

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