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The Best of 2006/Honorable Mention: 'Cars'

Cars (2006)

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Cars is the best animated film of the year; more so than Happy Feet. While both Cars and Happy Feet can rival each other in the cute department, it is Cars that does a far better job telling its story than Happy Feet (which spends more of its time trying to make an Al Gore/'protect the environment' stance). Although not as good as 2004's The Incredibles, Cars marks a pleasant return for John Lasseter, the creator of Pixar and the director of the original Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and A Bug's Life. This film returns us back to the good old days of CG animated films where inanimate objects became wonderfully animated via the imagination of Pixar.

Now that CG animation has caught on to ridiculous lengths since then where 'computer generated furry animal films' seem to be popping out non-stop at every theater, Cars is a fresh distraction from that. Like Stranger than Fiction, Cars shows our main character named Lightning McQueen (obviously a take on actor Steve McQueen who drove fast cars to fame in 1968's Bullitt) go through major changes in his life due to outside circumstances when he ends up in a run-down town that has gone into disrepair ever since a new freeway was opened; bypassing it. This was a common occurrence when old highways like Route 66 (once open to a potpourri of shopettes, cheap but nice motels, and quaint tourist traps) were usurped by bigger freeways.

Lasseter, along with co-director Ranft who died during the making of the film, show their dismay over this fact in this film. It isn't until Lightning meets an old time car voiced by the great actor Paul Newman that the real intriguing stuff starts to occur. All these character's actions together cause the town to meet the change it needs as well as find other lessons down the road. Pun intended? Maybe. Owen Wilson who is another actor that often does not show much range probably does his best work here as Lightning as far as inflection and variation in voice is concerned. He does indeed have a good voice. Bonnie Hunt, Tony Shaloub, Michael Keaton, and especially Larry the Cable Guy have memorable voice work here.