The latest animated feature from Pixar lacks the inventiveness of the studio's best efforts — namely THE INCREDIBLES (2004) and the TOY STORY movies — but benefits from the company's magic touch with good old-fashioned storytelling. Set in an alternate universe where automobiles, not mankind, have evolved into the dominant species, the film follows hot-rod race car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), who is one victory away from becoming the first rookie to win the Piston Cup. On his way down Route 66 to the championship race in California, McQueen takes an unplanned detour into Radiator Springs, "the cutest little town in Carburetor County." A big-city car by nature, McQueen is horrified at the thought of spending any length of time in this middle-of-nowhere burg among its collection of eccentric oddballs like country bumpkin tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), Luigi (Tony Shalhoub), an excitable Italian Fiat that runs the local tire store, and a zonked-out VW hippie bus named Filmore (George Carlin) who makes his own "organic" fuel. Unfortunately, McQueen doesn't have much of a choice; he accidentally tore up Main Street when he raced into Radiator Springs, and the town's stern judge, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), has ordered him to repair the damage. The self-centered speed demon initially shuns the locals, but his attitude softens the more time he spends away from the bright lights of the race track. McQueen also strikes sparks with the town's resident beauty, Sally Carrera (Bonnie Hunt), a sensitive Porsche from sunny California who found her way to Radiator Springs several years ago and wound up staying. The story of a big-city boy stuck in small-town America has been told countless times before, and cowriter/director (and Pixar head honcho) John Lasseter doesn't really try to — pardon the pun — reinvent the wheel. One of Pixar's chief strengths is its ability to take such classic formulas and infuse them with great characters and genuine emotional heft. On that level, this film is a real crowd-pleaser, although viewers on the coasts might find its unabashed celebration of heartland values a little overbearing. The vocal performances are excellent across the board; Newman's weathered voice is a perfect fit for the seen-it-all Doc Hudson, and Hunt and Wilson make a charming couple. Even Larry the Cable Guy's blue-collar schtick is put to effective use: Mater is sure to be a favorite with younger viewers. And while you may feel as if you've seen this story before, you've never seen it told with such eye-popping visuals. With every film, Pixar continues to push the limits of CGI technology, and the photorealistic backgrounds and crisp character design displayed here represent a new level of artistry for computer animation. It's the one movie so far this summer that demands to be seen on the big screen.
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- Released: 2006
- Rating: G
- Review: The latest animated feature from Pixar lacks the inventiveness of the studio's best efforts — namely THE INCREDIBLES (2004) and the TOY STORY movies — but benefits from the company's magic touch with good old-fashioned storytelling. Set in an alternate uni… (more)