(2006) dir. John Lasseter, Joe Ranft
viewed: 06/24/06 at the Century 20 Daly City, Daly City, CA
From the first time I saw a trailer for this, I thought “This is going to be the first bad film that Pixar has made.” From concept to design, this seemed like an idea for 1984 computer animation, not 2006 and not from the top of the line studio in this area. I joked that since at one point it was to be the last of the Disney contract projects (before Steve Jobs ate Disney), that maybe it was intentionally a throw-away movie with little effort in it. But it’s primarily directed by John Lasseter, Pixar’s BMOC, and it’s got a marketing campaign to beat the band. So who knows?
From my perspective, my first sensations proved themselves out. This is the first weak film that Pixar has offered up. It pushes Finding Nemo (2003) out by a long shot from that criticism.
The characters are stock: cool but egotistical hero, sweet-hearted girl, curmudgeonly old guy, goofy hick, type after type after type. No one original character in the bunch. The narrative is paint-by-numbers as it gets. From the opening sequence in the small town, I could have rushed outside and written the rest of it myself. So, I think that from a creative standpoint, this film is dull to the max.
But it’s Pixar so the execution is primo. The animation details are rich and it looks very polished. But they are cars, for chrissakes. They just aren’t that interesting. From a marketing standpoint, it’s brilliant. Everyone knows that there are those NASCAR families out there who probably eat something like this right up. And they can go to McDonalds and get their AT&T Broadband and every other thing that they can get the Cars logo stuck on.
It amazes me that Lasseter, who reveres Hayao Miyazaki so much fails to get that it’s all about the creative narrative and amazing characters, breaking from conventions (or creating new ones) that makes Miyazaki so amazing. It’s not all the polish on the chrome. It’s the thing itself.
My son enjoyed it. He’s not overly discerning at this point. His favorite joke was when a one car tells Mater the goofball character to “keep an eye open” for something that Mater closes one eye and keeps the other one open. I think that almost says it all when you come to analyze the lack of originality in this flick.