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Cars

Cars Movie Review-Rated G
Directedy By: John Lasseter and Joe Ranft
Theatrical release: June 9, 2006
DVD release: November 6, 2007
Running time: 116 minutes
*** out of **** stars.

While watching the opening scene of Cars, I wondered which movie studio came up with the idea of a NASCAR-homage film first, Columbia Pictures, which produced Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby or Pixar Animation, which produced Cars. Both films were released in 2006, both are heavily NASCAR influenced and feature an arrogant, cocky superstar driver. The obvious difference being Ricky Bobby is human and Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson, Wedding Crashers), is a car. In fact, every cast member of Cars is an automotive vehicle - even the bugs!

Lightning McQueen is the rookie sensation of the racing circuit. He's highly ambitious and covets the Piston Cup, the most prestigious prize in racing. Lightning wins races with much moxy, rivaled by only NBA Legend Michael Jordan; he even sticks out his tongue when making a bold move on the track, which is a classis Jordan gesture.

Life is good for Lightning McQueen. The cameras love him, females swoon for him, sponsors fall for him, especially his first backer Rust-Eze, though the feeling is not mutual. Up to this point, Lightning's has everything he wants. What could go wrong? Well, for starters, his success brings his arrogance, selfishness and stupidity to the surface and his personality flaws get him in a load of trouble.

While headed to California for an all-or-nothing race between himself and his two rivals, The King (voiced by, well, The King - NASCAR legend Richard Petty) and Chick Hicks (Michael Keaton), Lightning's selfishness causes his road trip to fall seriously off schedule. Through a series of misadventures, he ends up in a nearly abandoned town called Radiator Springs. Lightning finds himself in trouble with the law in the tiny town and, due to swift justice is sentenced to community service. The sentence confines him to the town until his punishment is served. The problem is Lightning has only a few days to reach California for the race.

Lightning characeristically relents and rebels initally; he's only concerned about the upcoming race, but as the days go by, he develops relationships with the town's members, including a racing legend named Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), who had been long forgotten, a smart sassy Porshe named Sally Carrera (get it), voiced by Bonnie Hunt and an adorable rusty tow truck named Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). Lightning comes to realize that maybe life is not all about him.

In terms of storytelling and artistic merit, Cars ranks up there with the classic PIXAR films we are familiar with and love. The CGI only gets better with each movie. At some points while watching, it was hard to distinguish real from animation. The script is smartly written and the voiceovers are excellently cast. Cars, like most animated films, is peppered with adult references throughtout the movie: A road called Route 66 (The Mother Road) is a focal point, there's a scene borrowed from Fast & Furious, a Tonight Show clip and a tattoo in the dangest of places!

Get ready for some high-octane fun!

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