It had to end sometime. After a run of standard-setting CGI movies, Pixar has finally delivered a dud. Cars is a marvel of technology, but underneath that shiny bonnet there is a serious shortage of horsepower. The story, borrowed wholesale from Doc Hollywood, sees an arrogant racing car, voiced by Owen Wilson, waylaid in a sleepy middle American town. There, he learns valuable lessons about (yawn) the importance of community and teamwork. It's Capra with hubcaps.
The world of Cars is a freakish place, inhabited solely by automobiles (even the insects are tiny trucks) and yet mysteriously devoid of pollution. The characters that make up Radiator Springs, the tiny town where Wilson's Lightning McQueen is stranded, are broadly recognisable types - a hippy camper van, a retired colonel represented by a Humvee, and so on.
However, where previous Pixar movies have made us care about toys, caterpillars and even fish, these automobiles prove impossible to love. Devoid of limbs, they are just faces on wheels, and thus rely heavily on the actors providing the voices. Wilson is OK, and Larry The Cable Guy (an American stand-up comic, apparently) does a sweet turn as a rusty-brained tow-truck, but Bonnie Hunt's love interest, a perky Porsche, leaves little impression. There's something icky about the romance anyway. How do they, you know, make little cars? If they were at it, surely we'd see the dents.
"A SURPRISINGLY LAME AFFAIR"
The script, usually Pixar's secret weapon, is a surprisingly lame affair that substitutes endless automotive puns for real wit. The only bright spot in the tedium is Paul Newman, on magisterial form as a retired racer with a dark secret.