Film Icon Right at the outset I need to let you know that my flight inbound to Singapore was spent in an aisle seat next to a portly (but very nice) Frenchman. And I had to watch Cars in black and white.

In all fairness to childrens animated films, that is probably not the best way to view them. Although I did do a quick check on this film on my return flight, and I might be wrong about that comment as the colours seemed to be excessively gaudy. Perhaps someone who has seen this film on a screen larger than that in the back of an airline seat headrest could confirm that either way for me.

The premise of the story is simple – there are three racing cars trying to win the coveted prize, The Piston Cup. One is a rookie – Lightning McQueen; one is the current champion “The King”; and the third is the perpetual runner-up Chick Hicks. As a three-way tie occurs, the option is a “race off” to be held across country in California.

Lightning McQueen, voiced by Owen Wilson, is the central character. He is proud, brash, mouthy and unappreciative. And in his rush to be the first to the new track, he manages to get himself lost in a small dusty old town called Radiator Springs. And it is here (of course) where his life lessons begin.

He slowly begins to appreciate others, gets a grip on the concept of friendship, and finally learns the unusual lesson of respecting his elders.

While many of the themes of animated movies are similar – friendship, appreciation and the value of a family, Cars actually manages to add in a new one. The most wonderful Paul Newman voices Doc Hudson, the local old-timer Judge with a secret history. Lightning goes from thinking of Doc as a crusty old Judge to admiration and on to valuing the wisdom and talent of his older counterpart.

Lightning’s final act of redemption occurs in the last few minutes of the film, along with his reward for following the “higher path”. And this also stems from his new sense of empathy, appreciation of friendship and respect for others. It is also a glaring lesson in opposing the sporting mentality of “winning is everything, at all costs”.

I enjoyed this film. It’s not excessively funny, sloppy, silly or annoying. It is formulaic, very few kids movies aren’t, but it adds a few nice touches of its own to the genre. It will also appeal to those kids brought up in a home that adores the Indy 500.

Don’t rush out to hire the DVD, but if you feel like something light and animated, it could be an option. And no, I won’t be adding this to my collection.

But the list of great talent who lent their voices to this film deserves mention.
Owen Wilson is Owen Wilson – animated car or not.
Paul Newman
is fantastically understated as Doc Hudson.
Bonnie Hunt strikes a nice counterpoint to Owen Wilson as Sally Carrera.
And of the “minor characters” my favourites were:
Larry the Cable Guy
as Mater (absolutely fantastic) will bring into being a whole new sport – Tractor Tipping !!
Tony Shalhoub as Luigi does a very nice turn here.
John Ratzenberger takes the mickey out of himself. (As a result of how many characters he has voiced for Pixar!)

It rates a 2.5 out of 5.

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