Cars
R1 - America - Buena Vista / Disney
Review written by and copyright: Shahir Daud & Noor Razzak (29th November 2006).
The Film

With so many digitally animated cartoons out these days, a return from the pioneer of the genre John Lasseter is easily the most anticipated entry in an ever saturated market. After all, it was Pixar who gave life to Woody and Buzz in "Toy Story" (1995) and "Toy Story 2" (1999), showed us "A Bugs Life" (1998), found Nemo, formed "Monsters Inc." (2001) and wowed us with "The Incredibles" (2004).
While their technical prowess ensured the most dazzling visuals, what separated Pixar from their peers was their uncanny ability to breathe life into their digital creations. In much the same way Disney animation was the cherished wonder of childhood rainy afternoons, parents could always rely on Pixar to deliver pixel perfect fables which were energetic enough to distract the kids, and engaging enough to round up the adults.
But "Cars" is an altogether different beast. A loud gas guzzler which seems so much like Pixar's competitors that it pains me to call it what it is: A paint-by numbers cartoon.
When hotshot Nascar racer Lightening McQueen (Owen Wilson) is accidentally stranded in Radiator Springs, he's forced to repair the isolated townships road, which by all accounts is all the local residents have left since they were diverted by the newest interstate highway. Oh yes, this is a world entirely inhabited by the titular cars.
The "big city kid stuck in small town America and learns the importance of family" shtick is a ploy we've seen many times before and barely registers with any of the weight Lasseter intends. A late musical montage which highlights the slower days of yesteryear comes off as trite rather than heartfelt and with none of the subtleties of all of the films that made Pixar's work great.
It may be the lack of depth, or likewise the slightly creepy metaphor of a technology as ecologically devastating as cars embodying the human quality of preservation that makes "Cars" an uncomfortable watch. Not so long ago, Sully in "Monsters Inc." was forced to acknowledge the horror he had caused so many children, while "Finding Nemo's" ocean dwelling characters were often reminded of the dangers of the world beyond the sea. "Cars" offers no such metaphorical analysis, not to mention a complete lack of nuance within its story arc. Lightening learns the value of slowing down after taking a leisurely drive with Sally (a city Porsche now living the quiet life voiced by Bonnie Hunt), while he also learns the tricks of racing from retired hotrod Doc Hudson (Paul Newman). Both scenes are stunning to look at, but never reach any emotional truth other than to suggest that all Lightening needed was a dash of country air to satiate his big city dreams. Pixar may still rule the roost of digitally animated films, but with so many films pecking at their heels, they'll certainly need to dig deep in order to stay on top. "Cars" may be passable, but for a studio revered for its excellence, mediocrity is a step backwards.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.40:1 this THX certified anamorphic widescreen transfer is brilliant, created from the original digital source this film looks fantastic. The image is sharp, colors are lush and vivid and virtually pop off the screen, depth and detail is limitless. I could not spot any major flaws with this release at all, no edge-enhancement no compression issues, no dirt...nothing. As far as this goes the transfer for "Cars" is reference quality A+ material. Nice work Buena Vista.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included for this film an English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX encoded track as well as an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its 5.1 EX track and just like the image the sound is flawless, with dialogue clear and without distortion, the surround channels were active and aggressive with the bass kicking in at times. The depth of the track gave way for an immersive experience. Much like the transfer itself this audio track is also reference quality.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired only.

Extras

Buena Vista Home Entertainment has released this film as a 1-disc set, which is a disappointment considering all previous Pixar films have been given a deluxe 2-disc presentation. The extras on this release include 2 short films, a featurettes, some deleted scenes plus a handful of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up we have "Mater & The Ghostlight" a animated short film which runs for 7 minutes 8 seconds, in the sleepy town of Radiator Springs to alleviate his boredom Mater plays tricks and scares the residents, but he's taught a lesson by the town when they play a trick on him. This is a fun little short that will please fans of the film and also make the kids laugh.

Next up is another Pixar short film entitled "One Man Band" which runs for 4 minutes 32 seconds and is about two one man band performers competing for a little girl's gold coin. This is another in a long line of amusing shorts created by Pixar.

Also on the disc is an "Epilogue" sequence which runs for 4 minutes 17 seconds and seems like a omitted scene that follows the characters after the events in the film.

Next up is "Inspiration For Cars" a featurette that runs for 16 minutes 2 seconds, in this clip Lassater and crew take a road trip for research as we meet the interesting and colorful folks along the historic route 66 highway Lassater shares stories from his childhood and what ultimately inspired the film's story and its characters.

A series of 4 deleted scenes follows and are presented as storyboard sequences since they were dropped before the animation phase. The scenes included are:

- "Top Down Truck Stop" which runs for 3 minutes 51 seconds, McQueen gets separated from Mack while at a truck stop.
- "Lost" which runs for 1 minute 44 seconds sees McQueen stumbling upon a car graveyard after he losses Mack and is trying to find his way back to the interstate highway.
- "Community Service" runs for 3 minutes 15 seconds, after refusing to race for Radiator Springs McQueen learns about what he has to do for community service.
- "Motorama Girls" runs for 1 minute 43 seconds, McQueen learns how Flo and Ramone first met.

Rounding out the extras are a series of bonus trailers that include:

- "Ratatouille" which runs for 1 minute 48 seconds.
- "Peter Pan" 2-disc Special Edition DVD which runs for 1 minute 34 seconds.
- "Meet The Robinsons" which runs for 52 seconds.
- "Cars video game" spot which runs for 34 seconds.
- "Disney's Blu-ray" spot which runs for 52 seconds.

An insert booklet accompanies this release an lists the features and chapters for this DVD.

Packaging

This DVD is packaged in an amaray case that is housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Film: C+ Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: C+ Overall: B-

 


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