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Walt Disney Home Video presents
Cars (2006)

"Float like a Cadillac, sting like a Beemer!"
- Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: December 08, 2006

Stars: Owen Wilson, Paul Newman
Director: John Lasseter

MPAA Rating: G
Run Time: 01h:56m:25s
Release Date: November 07, 2006
UPC: 786936271898
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

The explosion of NASCAR is everywhere—it's even made it to Pixar. The animation studio has been on the kind of creative roll with the accompanying financial windfall that at some point, everybody sort of knew that they wouldn't be able to top themselves anymore. And Cars is sort of that point, a lovely and wholesome movie in many respects, but one that (ahem) sometimes seems to lose its motor. I don't doubt that we'd greet this movie with hosannas if it didn't come with the Pixar pedigree—it may not quite be Toy Story or The Incredibles, but it's still got plenty to delight you, whether or not you're old enough to get your learner's permit.

Our hero is Lightning McQueen, a rookie race car hoping to win his first Piston Cup. When he ends in an improbable three-way tie, McQueen is to face off with his two competitors in a challenge race in a week's time, across the country in California. So the fiery little car lights out for the left coast, only to get sidetracked in the podunk town of Radiator Springs, one of the many little burgs on fabled Route 66 that all but dried up when the interstate came through. Yes, you know exactly where this is going—McQueen, the fast-driving city sort, is gonna learn a li'l something about life.

It's certainly a bit of a disappointment that the fabled Pixar story department is more or less following the Doc Hollywood paradigm with this one, and at close to two hours, the movie feels a little pokey. Perhaps that's deliberate, and we're supposed to slow down, we move too fast, try to make the morning last, and all that; but this one doesn't cast quite the right spell. Part of this may be because it's completely lacking in human scale—we're not just looking at anthropomorphized cars; we're looking at nothing else. Certainly much of the fun and humor in the Toy Story pictures and Finding Nemo, for instance, is seeing how our new friends interact with the world that we know, and seeing surprising and delightful similarities between them and us. Here we've got just two hours of talking cars.

But it's clear that the filmmakers do love those cars, and the movie is shot through with a nostalgia for 1950s American pop culture—the huge tail fins and the Googie architecture are rendered lovingly in the animation here. And generally the technical values couldn't be higher—technology races along, and yet Pixar manages always to stay a couple of steps ahead. Which is sort of funny, because so much of the movie is about the Wal-Martization of our culture, of the abandonment of little towns all over like Radiator Springs, so that we can homogenize our country, travel across it and end up in the same place. (Pave paradise and put up a parking lot, if you will.) Also, the movie is wallpapered with pop songs, and you can feel the merchandising—it's like you're being marketed the soundtrack even as you watch the movie.

There are no shortage of vehicular puns—the TV offers "Braking News," you can get your nightly dose of jokes from Jay Limo, and so forth—and a handful of race car drivers have audio cameos, as do the hosts of Car Talk. Owen Wilson acquits himself well as McQueen, the prima donna who learns about the real world—the part is kind of Private Benjamin on a set of Michelins, but the Butterscotch Stallion pulls it off. Paul Newman is appropriately cranky as the grand old man of Radiator Springs who harbors his own secrets, and Bonnie Hunt is the necessary love interest, a big-city Porsche who's chosen to get out of the fast lane. (Sorry, the car puns just tumble out.)

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Well, no caveats in this portion of the review—the transfer is a stunner, the colors practically shimmering off the screen, the palette with the consistency that only computers can bring. Wave that checkered flag, son.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Both audio options are clean, but the dynamics can be a little odd—the mixers seems to be going for such a range that finding the right level at home is a challenge, with either the big racing set pieces blowing out your speakers, on the one hand, or vainly attempting to lip-read animated cars in the quiet scenes, on the other. Keep your finger on the volume button.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Ratatouille, Peter Pan (Platinum Edition), Meet the Robinsons, Cars video game, Disney Blu-Ray
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
3 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray with slipcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Easter egg
  2. THX optimizer
Extras Review: The extras here are modest, especially in comparison with other Pixar releases, so you can't help but get the feeling that Disney is pulling their punches a little bit with this one. Mater and the Ghostlight (07m:08s) is another adventure with Radiator Springs' favorite tow truck, and One Man Band (04m:30s) has a more European flavor than the all-American feature. An epilogue (04m:17s) catches us up with our pals after the credits roll, and four deleted scenes were excised in the early stages of story development, so what's here isn't so rewarding from a narrative standpoint, but these storyboards are a nice little window into the filmmaking process. Director John Lasseter is most prominent in The Inspiration for Cars (16m:02s), which has a fair amount of NASCAR footage, a historian of fabled Route 66, and the Pixar creative team on a road trip. And sit tight at the main menu and wait for an Easter egg to pop up on the lower right corner—click on it, and you'll find a quick little Cars homage to The Incredibles DVD.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

Not the sweetest ride in the Pixar garage, maybe, but an entertaining if sometimes not completely compelling animated picture from the folks who do this best.


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