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Review: 'Cars' is a fun ride but not worthy of a purchase -- yet

Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2006 at 10:01 PM Central

by Tim Briscoe

Pixar Animation Studios should be a household name by now. If you don't know, they are the guys and girls behind some of the biggest computer animated movies of the past 11 years.

From Toy Story to Bug's Life to Toy Story 2 to Monsters Inc. to Finding Nemo to The Incredibles, they have set the standard for computer animation to which DreamWorks Animation, Blue Sky Studios and others follow. Pixar's latest is Cars.

It's the story of self-absorbed race car Lightning McQueen. He's enjoying life in the fast lane until he gets stuck in the dusty town of Radiator Springs on the old Route 66 highway. During his stay in the sleepy little community, he meets colorful characters like Sally the Porsche, Mater the tow truck, and Doc the Hudson Hornet.

The story isn't the best in the Pixar bunch. If I had to rank them, it would probably finish last just because it's so predictable. It's much more of a kids movie than 2004's eternally cool The Incredibles.

However, the visuals show just how skilled the Pixar animation team is. I don't think I've seen an animated film look this good. The depth is simply gorgeous. You have to watch the movie a couple of times just to catch everything. (Pay close attention to the brand of tires the cars "wear" for a funny Toy Story reference.)

The soundtrack is also fabulous. Songs from John Mayer, Sheryl Crow, and Rascal Flatts add another terrific layer to the movie.

The film is very much the personal project of director John Lasseter. The genesis of the project is explored one the DVD's featurette "Inspiration for Cars." The mini documentary does a great job of showing the passion and detail Lasseter and his team put into the film. You even get to meet the real Mater and Michael Wallis, the Route 66 historian who became the basis for the Sheriff character.

Also on this single disc release is a new short film, "Mater and the Ghostlight." Pixar was the first to follow-up their theatrical film with a short bonus film for the movie's DVD release. It's a practice that's become a standard.

There are also several deleted scenes -- if you can call them "scenes." They're really just roughly animated storyboard drawings. The DVD also has the "One Man Band" short which played before the movie in theaters. It was nominated for an Academy Award and stands as one of the highlights of the disc.

The only disappointment with this release is that it's just a single disc's worth of stuff. Recent Pixar films The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, and Monsters Inc. each received the two-disc "Collector's Edition" treatment upon their initial DVD release. I really wish the same were true for Cars.

Rent this one and hold off buying it until the inevitable Special Edition is released by Disney. Recommendation: Rent It