U, 2006, Directed by John Lasseter and Joe Ranft
Starring: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt
After reaching such stratospheric success not only critically, but commercially with the Toy Story’s and Finding Nemo - amongst others - an increasing amount of pressure is layered onto whatever Pixar decide to do next. Back in 2006, John Lasseter – the main man behind the creation of Woody and Buzz – introduced the world to a universe that doesn't feature toys, monsters or superhero families – but cars. In doing so, he unveiled probably Pixar’s most underrated outing to date. The plot follows racing car Lightning McQueen (a character now possibly in every young boy’s toy collection) who is en route to
to race a tie-breaking match for the yearned after Piston Cup. However, a turn of events leads him away from the interstate and towards Radiator Springs, an abandoned town that is home to a quirky set of car-acters; these include slow, southern-drawled Mater, the most loyal tow truck the big screen has seen, as well as grouchy Doc Hudson (voiced by Paul Newman in what was to be one of his last roles). California
Granted, Cars lacks the immediate spark that previous Pixar efforts effortlessly emanate, but it would be unfair to judge what Lasseter deems his most personal film on previous successes. This is one hell of a slow-burner, with the script containing more than a full tanks worth of adult-aimed witticisms than first remembered. With the emphasis usually on characterisation (and pitch perfect voice casting), Pixar here raise the bar visually, evidenced no more than in the opening race sequence. The attention to detail is overwhelming and creates such a well realised universe that it is impossible not to be charmed by the entire thing. It really is up there with the ocean in Finding Nemo or the barren landscape of Wall●E. Although the film runs out of gas towards the end, there are enough lovely moments to keep you smiling and caring about the outcome. It comes as a surprise the extent to which Cars engrosses you; although this animated team makes no secret about wanting the audience to be snivelling into a tissue come the credits, you are caught off guard a few times here (a scene towards the film’s close beautifully pits in true Pixar fashion the importance and power of friendship) as a lump in your throat emerges. Strangely, Cars improves on re-watch – and only then will you agree with me that this film deserves more recognition. Not as obviously amazing as any of its predecessors, this is still top stuff.