Earlier this year, Cars, the latest movie from Pixar, was not received by reviewers with the same enthusiasm and glee that preceded movies made by the studio in the past. Finding Nemo and Incredibles are just a few in the unbroken series of remarkably successful films made by Pixar. So when Cars, which features no animals or humans, came out, everybody wanted to jump on it and say that this was Pixar's first failure since 1995 when they made Toy Story.
But that was good in a way because I went to the movie with low expectations.(Disney has recently bought into Pixer but Jobs retains creative control.)
This is how the movie begins, with brief shots of a race that keep fading away. "Okay. Focus. Here we go. Speed. I am speed. One winner. 42 losers. I eat losers for breakfast. Breakfast? Sounds good. Maybe I should have had breakfast? Breakfast could be good for me. No no no. Focus. I am faster than fast, quicker than quick. I am Lightning."
That is Owen Wilson, who voices Lightning Mcqueen, the rookie race car - brash, arrogant and ambitious, and with no friends.
The opening sequence is a grandly shot(?) sequence, with cars watching cars racing. Mcqueen ties the race with two cars and has to travel to California for the decider. But, in a cruel twist of fate, he gets stuck in Radiator Springs, a town that has gone off the map after the interstate highway was built in US in the 1960s.
Jesus Chrysler, ladies and gentlecars...the movie's endless puns on our usages are funny, but a bit excessive.
Paul Newman is the car that won the Piston Cup three times in the 60s. He becomes Mcqueen's mentor.
In the forgotten town of Radiator Springs, Mcqueen will learn about racing and working, will form friends and fall in love. All the while Mcqueen has to lay a road which he accidentally ruins. Sally, voiced by Bonnie Hunt, in a superbly envisioned sequence, tells him how Radiator Springs, once a boom city, had now become yesterday's story.
In this story lies the theme of the movie. Of unbridled development and the American dream gone wrong. (There are now officially more movies where the American dream goes wrong, starting with Citizen Kane). She also tells him of the need to slow down and enjoy life. As Sally puts it, before the interstate was built, "people didn't drive to make good time. They drove to have a great time".