08 March 2006

Cars is AWESOME (spoiler-free review)

* Updated with corrections (I'm now awake!). All changes in bold.

Ok, I've finally gotten my internet connection, jet lag is finally kicking my backside and I've just watched Pixar's Cars.

I'm really sleepy right now (and smelly, due to my lack of deodorant - thanks to the bottle exploding during the flight) but I'll try to write a short review.

What I really like about Cars is that - like all other Pixar films - it tackles a really difficult, seemingly uninteresting theme and comes away leaving a really good impression.

Director John Lasseter is deeply passionate about filmmaking and it shows - Cars is a really fun movie with loads of interesting characters, character development and perfectly scripted moments that tug your heart strings just the right way.

Personally, I'm a bit of a petrolhead but even I was sceptical about Cars - after all, the trailers are really boring! (Quite the opposite of how some trailers are much better than the actual film). Looks like Pixar has proven me wrong again.

What's really cool is that the film starts of with a bang - with our hero Lightning McQueen (the red guy) racing against The King (an old racing legend in blue) and Chick Hick (the one in green - The King's long-time nemesis) in the final round of the prestigious Piston Cup. It's a three way battle for the ultimate prize and McQueen is also in the running to be the first-ever rookie champion.

However, McQueen's got a bit of an attitude problem, what being a natural-born winner and stuff like that. As it turns out, the outcome of the race is a surprise, and all three are invited to take part in an additional three-car race to determine the winner.

The pace and sensation of speed is excellent, and really gets your adrenaline pumping. If you're a guy (or girl, possibly) who used to play pretend races in your head with your little Matchbox toy cars, this will have you grinning.

The sound effects are awesome too, sending shivers down my spine every time. It's handled by the guys at Skywalker sound, which is good.

And after you've settled into your seat, the film slows down into a really nice tale about friendship, pride, growing up and a lot more. Without giving away too much, let's just say McQueen manages to get himself marooned on a desert town called Radiator Springs on his way to the special race.

He then gets into trouble and finds himself dealing with the town's eccentric residents - and finds out that there's more to life than winning races.

This is where the bulk of the movie takes place, and it's basically that - a story about slowing down. Where the journey, not the destination, is the goal.

The townsfolk are a mixed bunch of people (sorry, cars) and take an instant disliking to McQueen. But do they warm up to him?

There's and old car named Doc Hudson, who has a dark past and seems to be in charge of the town. He's a rather cool character, voiced by Paul Newman and all.

The other residents include a rusty tow truck called Mater (who ends up being McQueen's best friend), a military Jeep called Sarge (who has an army surplus store), a 1950's showcar called Flo (who runs a swanky gas station), a firetruck called Red (who just splashes things), an Italian Fiat 500 called Luigi (who own's a tire store with his Italian forklift sidekick, Guido), a Mexican low-rider called Ramone, some old vintage car lady, and a hippy VW van called... can't remember his name!

This is an extremely likeable cast of characters who add so much to the dusty town of Radiator Springs.

Oh, and there's hot female in town - She's a Porsche named Sally, finally confirming that Porsches are, in fact, GAY! Or feminine, at least.

Yes, the film's premise sounds cliche and you can probably predict the remainder of the story by the halfway mark. BUT, it's a classic Pixar film - the sort of film that reminds us why we watch films in the first place. It's really well directed, the dialogue is good, and the little references to popular culture (while nowhere as offensive/prevalent as in Dreamworks' films) will get both car buffs, film buffs and dairy farmers laughing.

Plus, there are even a couple of tifosi in the movie (Luigi and Guido)! Somebody in Pixar obviously loves Italian cars. And wait till you see who makes a guest appearance in the film.

The other cool thing is that, while the film is about cars, it isn't about cars. Meaning, there's no geeky talk (or lengthy discussions) about suspension settings, heel-and-toe braking, AE86 Toyota Truenos, carbon fibre hoods or general engine modifications - ala Initial D.

In fact, other than the Porsches and Ferraris, no real-world cars are explicitly modelled in this film. (Note: This was very obviously wrong, as I've already shown above!)

Note to self: Don't write stuff when you're half asleep, you will get facts wrong.

I didn't realise it at first, but a whole lot of research actually went into the show to ensure that car buffs will go "Hey! That's cool". For example, all of the engine sounds are accurate to their real-life counterparts. With the exception of McQueen and Mater, most of the main characters are based on real life cars.

For example, Doc Hudson is really a 1951 Hudson Hornet - a really important car in the history of the US motorsports scene, dominating the Nascar scene in the early 50's. Wait, I think I just gave a spoiler! ^_^

Ok... my mind is blanking out. I need to sleep. Maybe when I'm awake, I'll re-write some of this for better clarity. Good night. (Note: I'm awake now!)

In the end, Cars is a fantastic movie. Sure, it's funny and has all the usual feel-good movie elements in them. But if anything, this is a very good example of how it should be done - More than just writing good stories, the guys at Pixar really know how to tell a story well.

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