I went to see the movie Cars last evening. By myself. Just to get out of the house and do something. It’s a step in the right direction.
For the record, I really enjoyed the movie. I knew that I would for a number of reasons. First, I’m a car guy. Not in the sense that I know how they work and how to fix them, but I’m more of a car admirer. I like to see cars, all kinds of cars, and not-so-secretly wish I drove something far more expensive and exotic than I currently do. (For the record, if there are any fabulously wealthy benefactors out there who would like to do something for some anonymous schlub on the web, my dream car is a 2007 Mercedes SL 550. Any color would work.) So, ‘Cars’ would be right up my alley. Although, I am REALLY glad that the cars in this movie didn’t come across like the cars from the Chevron commercials. I don’t know what it is, but every one of those things just feels to me slightly creepy and like the cars are always whining. Those things make me absolutely crazy. Can’t stand them. Luckily, this movie is lightyears from those damn things.
Also, I like Pixar’s work. Toy Story, Nemo, Incredibles were all terrific. I saw no reason why this should be any different. You can bank on lots of good little jokes, some visual treats you didn’t expect, and some real quality animation. Speaking of the animation, I read something interesting online about the movie. Even though the processors they used while animating this movie had 4 times the power of the ones they used while making the Incredibles, it still took an average of 17 hours to render a single frame of film. Do the math… 24 frames/second * 1 hour 56 minute runtime = 167,040 frames of animation * 17 hours = 118,320 DAYS of cpu time. Wow. I saw the movie in a digital theater, and the results were simply amazing. I might have to see it again, if only for the artwork. Some of the animation, like when the cars move at times, just looks really really good. For example, the Porsche looks really good in some places when its moving like a car (and not an anthropomorphized hunk of metal and rubber)
Third, I like all of the actors involved. Owen Wilson is one of my all-time favorites, even though he is almost the straight man in this movie. Paul Newman was friggin Reg Dunlop in ‘Slap Shot‘ for pete’s sake. Not a huge Larry the Cable Guy fan, but he is terrific in this movie as the bumkin’ tow truck. When you add in all the other little pieces that come together, the movie really starts to shine; Tony Shalhoub dusting off his Antonio Scarpacci voice from ‘Wings‘ as the Italian tire store car… Jeremy Piven playing Wilson’s agent (just as he does on Entourage) is deliciously slimy. Cheech Marin and George Carlin playing… well… Cheech Marin and George Carlin. But still terrific. Not to mention all of the cameos/famous non-actors doing voices including: racers Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Mario Andretti, Michael Schumacher and Dale Earnhardt Jr… Bob Costas… Tom & Ray Magliozzi (better known as NPR’s Car Talk guys)… Everything was just terrific. If I had one casting choice to do over, there is no way in the world that I wouldn’t have R. Lee Ermey as the voice of the jeep. I think they dropped the ball there, but that is a minor quibble.
There are lots of nice little pieces in there… a automobile version of cow tipping… the Porsche’s ‘tattoo’… the valley made up of automotive looking buttes and bluffs… look closely at the flies that are buzzing around from time to time. All hallmarks of Pixar’s style. They also add some nice references to their past movies during the credits. Stay through them all… they’re worth it.
Finally, I think there is little doubt that my emotions are still not exactly what I would call ‘normal’. Tell me I didn’t feel like an ass being about 3 seconds from tearing up in various spots in the movie. I think I feel like I’m holding everything just a few inches under the surface… and it threatens to boil over at the drop of a hat. I mean, we’re not exactly talking Old Yeller here or anything. And, it wasn’t even the parts involving the ‘relationship’ between Wilson’s Lightning and Bonnie Hunt’s Sally. The things that got me were some of the friendship stuff… the route 66 and dying of ‘quaint Americana’ stuff… the pure joy of just going out for a drive… I dunno… tough to explain. Maybe the movie is designed to do this. Hopefully, its not just me. Or, maybe I’m just more susceptible to these sorts of things right now. One can wish that this is not a permanent condition.
The music was also good. A new song by Sheryl Crow… remakes of ‘Life is a Highway’ and ‘Route 66’. Even a sappy James Taylor song, that was just a little too over the top in its sentimentality (even that one didn’t get me).
All in all, I would highly recommend this movie. If anyone is interested, I would be willing to see it again with someone if they want to go to the digital Majestic theatre. It was that good. If anything, it really makes me want to get that late 60’s Cadillac convertible that my buddy George has wanted, loading up on the road trip music, and actually hitting Route 66 cross country. Staying in road side motels, eating cafe food. Enjoying the wind in your hair and the sun on your back. Maybe kids won’t get this movie. I’m seriously doubting whether a 5 year old has an appreciation for the lost Americana of yesteryear. But then again, maybe you don’t need that to enjoy the movie…
There is a terrific quote in the movie (I’m paraphrasing), “Now, people get on the road to make good time… used to be, people got on the road to have a good time.” Yeah, it harkens back to a simpler, slower time, but for me, it works.