Jun. 14, 2006 - Issue #556: Hot Summer Guide 2006
You’re gonna have to face it, you’re addicted to oil
The cars in Cars idle endlessly, guzzle gas and dismiss carpooling completely—they don’t even have passengers! They embody the old promise of freedom, independence and adventure, unadulterated and guilt-free.
Cars presents a fantasy world where the ozone layer doesn’t matter because there aren’t any humans to suffer its deterioration. What’s more, rather than skyrocketing in price, fuel appears to be free. You certainly never see anybody paying for it. But then, the characters don’t have wallets, or even hands.
Seriously, just how interesting are cars without humans to design them, admire them, fear them, race them, escape in them or drive them just for pleasure? Just how invested are any of us supposed to feel in shiny, talking vehicles? In cities that really are nothing but giant parking lots?
Pixar has made us connect with bugs and monsters, but in their first production under the Disney umbrella, they’re trying to breathe life into a conceit that’s a little too, well, mechanical. The story is essentially about speed vs slowness and solidarity vs selfishness. It has a rookie racer named Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) crossing the US to win the Piston Cup in California. He gets waylaid in some desert backwater called Radiator Springs and learns about values beyond success and showing off from a gruff 1951 Hudson Hornet (Paul Newman), a grammatically impaired, buck-toothed tow truck (Larry The Cable Guy) and a pastel Porsche (Bonnie Hunt) who also becomes a love interest (though whether these cars are gendered is left curiously ambiguous).
The lessons presented here are pretty sketchy, implying that small town life is inherently nicer, healthier and more honest. And there’s something truly absurd about the key scene where Lightning and the Porsche gaze out over a valley scarred by a superhighway and lament transport development.
Personally, I’m sympathetic to the sentiment but, I mean, they’re cars. It’s like a fish gazing over a rushing river and lamenting the days when there were only rocks and trees.
Cars of every make and model, for every conceivable purpose, have been romanticized and worshipped in movies from the beginning. And I just can’t say that a nearly two-hour movie about nothing but cars makes me love them—or hate them—any more than I did before. V
Directed by John Lasseter
Written by Dan Fogelman, Phil Lorin,
Voices by Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry The Cable Guy
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