I rarely write about movies because, as I rule, I find a few reviewers I agree with whole-heartedly and figure they've already made the points for me.
But when it comes to Cars, I feel like I saw a different movie than the reviewers did. This feeling was reinforced when so many of them commented that wasn't up to the standard of Pixar's previous films.
Now, I loved Monsters, Inc., which had some of the most memorable animated characters of the past decade. The Incredibles and Finding Nemo were both pleasant to watch, but I felt that Nemo dragged, and somehow both of those films faded from mind just a few hours after viewing.
Cars, however, has continued to haunt me. I agree with the reviewers who were unhappy with the central character, a smart-ass young race car named Lightning McQueen. He's allowed to be a completely arrogant brat for too much of the film before making the predictable transition to a nice guy halfway through.
However, I thought that the visual aspects of the film were so spectacular that the plot and characters could get away with being secondary to the animation. The visual artistry is even more amazing when you consider that the previous, highly acclaimed, Pixar films take place in fantasy worlds. Cars takes place in the real world, the American Southwest, and it brings that setting alive in all its breathtaking beauty.
My favorite part of the film is a sequence in which McQueen goes for a drive along the old Route 66, swooping through canyons and across a dam. Watching that scene, I felt as though I were in a car experiencing it myself. Several of the other outstanding sequences were shot at night, on the deserted streets of the automotive ghost town where McQueen finds himself stranded. Have you ever stood at night on a street corner in the "downtown" of a western town, say, in the Tri-Cities, or maybe Klamath Falls, where things were so still you could hear the street lights buzz? Cars captures it.
I love driving (not being in a car someone else is driving, mind you, but driving) particularly alone. One of my favorite memories is driving from Boston to Cape Cod on a deserted highway late at night in mid-winter. There was a full moon. I turned off my headlights and drove for as along as I dared through a flat landscape of frozen marshes.
Cars gave me that same feeling -- that special way you experience a vast landscape from a moving vehicle. I'd probably be perfectly happy to see Cars again without hearing the dialogue except that I wouldn't want to miss the fabulous music in the soundtrack.