Talking toys, I'm there. Talking fish, I'm there. Talking bugs, I'm there. Talking monsters, I'm there. Superheroes living undercover in suburbia, I love it. But talking cars. I mean, talking cars. There's something in me that just turns off at the idea of a movie about talking goddamn cars. It felt too close to a movie about Care Bears, somehow. That's part of what kept me from seeing the movie for so long, the Care Bear factor. The certainty that Big Lessons were going to be imparted to me via the Magic Of Animation.
And actually, I wasn't far wrong. CARS feels like it was made for kids, and frankly not very bright kids at that. The movie is a pretty naked endorsement of friendship, honesty, teamwork, etc. Our hero's journey from being a self-involved self-sufficient selfish creep to being a nice guy who values others is trite and predictable, with only the occasional faint surprise. Heartstrings are tugged and tugged. Worst of all, the energy and irreverence that kept Pixar masterworks like TOY STORY and FINDING NEMO and THE INCREDIBLES from sinking under the weight of their own assorted Messages is almost completely absent. There's a cute bit during the end credits, where we see car versions of Pixar classics like TOY CAR STORY and MONSTER TRUCK INC, but even this feels forced, as if they sensed that something was missing from the rest of the movie.
To be fair, the movie looks great. Shot after shot astounds. A scene in a moonlit field is startling, because it just looks so damn real: this one moment puts years of bogus cinematic day for night shooting to shame. A scene lit by neon is similarly gorgeous. The scenery and art direction are magnificent.
But without a more interesting story, who cares? I sure as hell didn't.