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Unpopular Opinion: Cars

Aug. 23, 2011by: Alex Keen

Written by:Alex Keen

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

CARS is one of my favorite Pixar movies. There, I wrote it. The oft-maligned race car movie, featuring the voice talent of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, and Larry the Cable Guy, is a film that I havenít always liked, but grew to love it after enough viewings. As with most opinions about movies, my love of CARS is due to my own circumstances and transcends the quality of the film itself. Itís the memory that makes this movie great.

CARS was the first movie that my now two years old son really enjoyed. It was his love of cars, trucks, and other vehicles that lead to me buying this Blu-ray and putting it in my player. Despite seeing and disliking CARS once before, I gave the movie a second chance on the hunch that he might like it. Not only was this hunch correct, it lead to me watching CARS multiple times for the next year (probably 30-40 times total). My opinion, having initially been shaped by boundless amounts of cynicism and elitism, was revised; now, not only did I enjoy this movie, but I began to reinterpret how I watch movies.

I clearly remember the first time I saw CARS, the list of problems I had with the movie: Owen Wilson lacks any charisma as Lightning McQueen, the middle act is slow as molasses, and Larry the Cable Guy is a redneck pathetic waste of space. These problems blinded me to what was just beneath the surface that was really good.

My initial perspective of Owen Wilson lacking charisma would change as I put his character under scrutiny. What I missed at the beginning was the idea that Lightning McQueen was not intended to be likable. He wasnít supposed to be nice or funny. He wasnít supposed to be charming or smart. Lightning McQueen is an arrogant son-of-a-bitch that got everything in life and never faced adversity. (While John Lasseter reveals that Michael Jordan was the model for McQueen, I think that Kobe Bryant is a much better comparison.) Once I realized this, I didnít look to Lightning for laughs. Instead, I focused on the jokes that were just beyond his antics.

Specifically, I spent a lot of my time enjoying the charms Mack, voiced by Pixar Hall of Famer, John Ratzenberger. As Mack, Ratzenberger doesnít have a lot of screen time; however, when he is present Ratzenberger delivers his best voice acting performance in a Pixar film. Better than any of his work in the TOY STORY series, UP, MONSTER INC., etc. Not only is Ratzenberger funny, but his performance provides shape and reality for a movie that exists in a world different from our own.

My second issue with CARS was the movieís slow middle act. You know, the part when Lightning McQueen gets stuck in Radiator Springs. I will concede that the message of life moving too fast is a bit heavy-handed during this portion. However, unlike many naysayers do, I donít blame the failure of this act on Larry the Cable Guy. I blame it the filmmakersí overwhelming desire to make sure that this movie has some kind of message - even to their own downfall.

In the case of Larry the Cable Guy, Iíll gladly defend his performance. First, heís there for comic relief. Hell, heís there for comic relief for an age group too young to successfully express themselves in writing. So, give the character a break. Mater was never designed to be a character that does anything beyond chewing on hay, farting out exhaust, or shouting at the top of his lungs ďGet Ďr done!Ē

Larry the Cable Guyís presence, in the scope of things, is not exactly dominating. He pops in, makes some goofy faces, throws in some silly one-liners, and scoots along. Itís not like they shape the whole movie around him. And, for my money, the tractor tipping diversion was one of the funniest scenes of the film. Sure, itís stupid, but itís a visceral experience that kids can get and everyone else can connect with. Tractor tipping is a quintessential Pixar bit that deserves to remembered alongside best theyíve ever made.

Finally, this might not be a comparison that you agree with, but as Iíve aged itís an opinion that I will not change: Mater is the C-3PO of this movie. Heís there for the most base reasons: to present basic emotions clearly and cleanly, to present context for decisions made by other characters, and, if youíve watched STAR WARS enough, easy to ignore after a while. Initially, Mater and C-3PO exist to hold moviegoersí hands (of all ages) through the story. However, by the end of the movie or after multiple viewings, they are expendable. For me, thatís okay and their existence is necessary for storytelling purposes.

Now that Iíve defended those aspects of CARS that seem to be the easiest to criticize, Iíd like to share with you some of the other great parts of this movie. Beyond Ratzenbergerís stellar turn as Mack, there are several other side characters that deserve recognition. First, Michael Keatonís work as Chick Hicks is especially good. While Owen Wilson plays the arrogant rookie well, Keaton presents a lovable dummy that wears his mustache well. If youíre like me, youíve missed the comedic work of Keaton since live-action career seems to have drifted away from him. Heís great as Chick and steals every scene heís in. Iím glad to see that his work with Pixar didnít end with CARS.

A couple of other performances that are worth mentioning are Tony Shalhoub as Luigi and Paul Newman as Doc Hudson. From my perspective, some of the best jokes are delivered by Shalhoub as Luigi and his (silent) partner Guido. I hate to refer back to STAR WARS again, but the best bits between Luigi and Guido are comparable to the best repartee between C-3PO and R2D2. And Newmanís work, also his final film work, is perfectly curmudgeonly endearing at the same time. Hopefully, it will open kidsí eyes to his filmography as they get older. It presents a fascinating counterpoint when considering that Newmanís protege in the film is named... McQueen.

Finally, the best part of the CARS is the movieís ending. Specifically, the final race featuring Lightning, Chick Hicks, and The King. Unlike almost every kidsí movie ever made, at the end of the race, Lightning is not the big winner. Sure, he wins in the game of life, but the actual victory goes to Chick. Yup, the bad guy wins the big race even if he was being a gigantic dick. For me this ending sends a couple of different messages: a) you donít have to win the big race to win, b) you donít always have to win at all, and c) you can learn more by losing and losing gracefully. Not only are these great lessons for kids, they are great lessons for all of us. Furthermore, I am just stoked to see a surprise ending that is different from what is to be expected.

I donít think or expect that I will win you all over. However, I will forever remain a staunch defender of the quality and value of CARS. Its a great movie with a lot of great characters that donít deserve to be slighted just because you have an issue with Larry the Cable Guy (aka Dan Whitney).

Source: JoBlo.com

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+0
1:42AM on 08/25/2011

I'm confused.

I had always thought Cars was a pretty well-liked movie by general audiences. Checking RT I see it has a 74% rating from critics and 80% rating from users. Seems to me that liking Cars is really more the popular opinion than the unpopular one.
I had always thought Cars was a pretty well-liked movie by general audiences. Checking RT I see it has a 74% rating from critics and 80% rating from users. Seems to me that liking Cars is really more the popular opinion than the unpopular one.
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-10
8:22PM on 08/24/2011

OMG

Not wholly surprising, but gag inducing nonetheless. The first Cars was when Pixar showed they are just like any other animation studio. They got lucky after that with several amazing storylines and directors (monsters inc., brad bird's the incredibles, & up) but really, they've always been overrated. next, we'll be making the case for why Cars 2 is a masterpiece in disguise. get over it. Pixar isn't all that it's cracked up to be
Not wholly surprising, but gag inducing nonetheless. The first Cars was when Pixar showed they are just like any other animation studio. They got lucky after that with several amazing storylines and directors (monsters inc., brad bird's the incredibles, & up) but really, they've always been overrated. next, we'll be making the case for why Cars 2 is a masterpiece in disguise. get over it. Pixar isn't all that it's cracked up to be
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8:21AM on 08/24/2011

Good article!

Well considered and balanced points!

Cars still aint my favourite, for me it doesnt have the level of creativity of other Pixar work, but is still a pretty solid movie.

Incredibles/Wall.E top it for me.
Well considered and balanced points!

Cars still aint my favourite, for me it doesnt have the level of creativity of other Pixar work, but is still a pretty solid movie.

Incredibles/Wall.E top it for me.
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8:21PM on 08/23/2011
I realized I liked Cars more after giving it another viewing. Especially after watching all the special features and getting an idea about Pixar was trying to do with this film. Yes, it is weaker than other Pixar films, but it still remains a good film.
I realized I liked Cars more after giving it another viewing. Especially after watching all the special features and getting an idea about Pixar was trying to do with this film. Yes, it is weaker than other Pixar films, but it still remains a good film.
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+3
7:39PM on 08/23/2011
I've never felt Cars was a bad movie. Actually its a very good animation movie. Only thing is that its not as good as Pixar's other movies. They're all so good that this one is just mediocre compared to the others. And maybe its because I don't like blue collar comedy but I HATE Mater. Larry the Cable is seriously unfunny and his voice just ruins being able to watch the movie many times for me. When I heard they made him the main character in the sequel I refused to see it
I've never felt Cars was a bad movie. Actually its a very good animation movie. Only thing is that its not as good as Pixar's other movies. They're all so good that this one is just mediocre compared to the others. And maybe its because I don't like blue collar comedy but I HATE Mater. Larry the Cable is seriously unfunny and his voice just ruins being able to watch the movie many times for me. When I heard they made him the main character in the sequel I refused to see it
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-15
6:34PM on 08/23/2011

How the hell did you watch this crap 40 times?

You even say it was boring but you watched it 30-40 times, that is fucking crazy. Get a life...
You even say it was boring but you watched it 30-40 times, that is fucking crazy. Get a life...
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5:42PM on 08/23/2011
I liked Cars the first time, and I enjoy it equally with each viewing, and most importantly, my daughter LOVES Cars!
I liked Cars the first time, and I enjoy it equally with each viewing, and most importantly, my daughter LOVES Cars!
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5:24PM on 08/23/2011
I loved Cars. I spent my entire childhood driving my Hot Wheels cars around my house and making them talk, I just don't get all the hate for anthropomorphic cars. Why are talking bugs, rats, fish, birds, monsters and robots OK, but not cars? Not all movies have to be the Godfather to be enjoyable.
I loved Cars. I spent my entire childhood driving my Hot Wheels cars around my house and making them talk, I just don't get all the hate for anthropomorphic cars. Why are talking bugs, rats, fish, birds, monsters and robots OK, but not cars? Not all movies have to be the Godfather to be enjoyable.
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5:16PM on 08/23/2011
Its not a bad movie, but this is my least favorite of pixar's. Havent seen the second one, and I dont intend to.

The thing about Cars is it's lacking in that special spice that Pixar adds to their other films (maybe with the exception of Bugs Life). Pixar movies have a special uniqueness to the story that makes them feel fresh and exciting. Whereas Cars is just basically talking cars, thats it. This movie couldve been made by Dreamworks or any other studio in my opinion.
Its not a bad movie, but this is my least favorite of pixar's. Havent seen the second one, and I dont intend to.

The thing about Cars is it's lacking in that special spice that Pixar adds to their other films (maybe with the exception of Bugs Life). Pixar movies have a special uniqueness to the story that makes them feel fresh and exciting. Whereas Cars is just basically talking cars, thats it. This movie couldve been made by Dreamworks or any other studio in my opinion.
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5:00PM on 08/23/2011
I like this movie. I liked it when I first saw it in theaters, and my opinion hasn't changed much here.

"Cars 2" on the other hand was a massive letdown.
I like this movie. I liked it when I first saw it in theaters, and my opinion hasn't changed much here.

"Cars 2" on the other hand was a massive letdown.
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3:13PM on 08/23/2011
I really wasn't a fan of Cars, but I wasn't their demographic.

Really though, even the "worst" Pixar movie is still better than 90% of the CGI trash we get every summer.
I really wasn't a fan of Cars, but I wasn't their demographic.

Really though, even the "worst" Pixar movie is still better than 90% of the CGI trash we get every summer.
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+2
2:24PM on 08/23/2011

I like it

I actually like Cars better then UP. Oh and by the way. THE MOVIE IS INTENDED FOR CHILDREN!!! Not a bunch of cynical bastards. If kids love it, then the movie has done it's job.
I actually like Cars better then UP. Oh and by the way. THE MOVIE IS INTENDED FOR CHILDREN!!! Not a bunch of cynical bastards. If kids love it, then the movie has done it's job.
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-13
2:16PM on 08/23/2011
My problem with the movie is that it's about vehicles as the main characters. Cars and trucks don't look like character. They just look like objects to me, so I can't sympathize with them.
My problem with the movie is that it's about vehicles as the main characters. Cars and trucks don't look like character. They just look like objects to me, so I can't sympathize with them.
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1:34PM on 08/23/2011

Sorry. It sucked

Sorry. It sucked. Will never see part 2. God awful movie
Sorry. It sucked. Will never see part 2. God awful movie
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12:17PM on 08/23/2011

Still the 2nd worse...

Its still the 2nd worse movie in Pixar, just above Cars 2. Besides, I remember this movie when is was called "Doc Hollywood" with Michael J. Fox.
Its still the 2nd worse movie in Pixar, just above Cars 2. Besides, I remember this movie when is was called "Doc Hollywood" with Michael J. Fox.
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12:06PM on 08/23/2011
When Cars came out I didn't want to see it bc it looked stupid and it had Larry the Cable Guy. Turned out to be a pretty dam good movie. I would put this one ahead of Incredibles.
When Cars came out I didn't want to see it bc it looked stupid and it had Larry the Cable Guy. Turned out to be a pretty dam good movie. I would put this one ahead of Incredibles.
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12:01PM on 08/23/2011
Read the column still dont agree the movie is too slow paced too boring and uninteresting and not very creative. I think id rather watch Mars Needs Moms than Cars yes i know Mars Needs Moms is not pixar who cares. Anyways i think Green Lantern would be a good Unpopular Opinion column next. Some writers hated it a lot of fans loved it!
Read the column still dont agree the movie is too slow paced too boring and uninteresting and not very creative. I think id rather watch Mars Needs Moms than Cars yes i know Mars Needs Moms is not pixar who cares. Anyways i think Green Lantern would be a good Unpopular Opinion column next. Some writers hated it a lot of fans loved it!
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11:56AM on 08/23/2011
The "Cars" films are easily the weakest Pixar films. They are far from bad movies, but when compared to Pixar's other films, and what we've come to expect from them, they are extremely disappointing.
The "Cars" films are easily the weakest Pixar films. They are far from bad movies, but when compared to Pixar's other films, and what we've come to expect from them, they are extremely disappointing.
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11:23AM on 08/23/2011

Cars is B-level work from a studio

that usually brings out A-level material. I don't dislike Cars per se, but I consider it a letdown next to brilliant, original films like Ratatouille, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo and WALL-E (yeah, I know that film has its problems but try NOT tearing up during that space dance scene!). If Cars had come from any other studio, its reviews would have been a lot kinder but Pixar can and has done a lot better. Here endeth the rant.
that usually brings out A-level material. I don't dislike Cars per se, but I consider it a letdown next to brilliant, original films like Ratatouille, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo and WALL-E (yeah, I know that film has its problems but try NOT tearing up during that space dance scene!). If Cars had come from any other studio, its reviews would have been a lot kinder but Pixar can and has done a lot better. Here endeth the rant.
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11:13AM on 08/23/2011
I've always enjoyed Cars. It seems like people think that just because it's not Toy Story, Monsters INC, or the Incredibles that it warrants hate. Its not the best Pixar movie, but its still a good one.
I've always enjoyed Cars. It seems like people think that just because it's not Toy Story, Monsters INC, or the Incredibles that it warrants hate. Its not the best Pixar movie, but its still a good one.
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11:10AM on 08/23/2011
I liked Cars. It's not the best movie in the world but it's entertaining and looks good.
I liked Cars. It's not the best movie in the world but it's entertaining and looks good.
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10:36AM on 08/23/2011
Don't compare a Pixar movie to another Pixar movie. Compare it to every other animated movie ever made, that wasn't made by Pixar.
Don't compare a Pixar movie to another Pixar movie. Compare it to every other animated movie ever made, that wasn't made by Pixar.
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10:35AM on 08/23/2011
Thank you. I finally got around to seeing Cars just before the sequel came out, and I found myself enjoying it just fine. Its still visually remarkable. It has a nice sentiment that I think little kids and more than a few adults deserve to hear. And there was plenty of stuff to make me laugh. Everything I like about John Lasseter is on display right here. Even Mater works as a character, and I say this as a man with bona fide hatred for Lawrence "what of Arabia?" Whitney.

Make no mistake,
Thank you. I finally got around to seeing Cars just before the sequel came out, and I found myself enjoying it just fine. Its still visually remarkable. It has a nice sentiment that I think little kids and more than a few adults deserve to hear. And there was plenty of stuff to make me laugh. Everything I like about John Lasseter is on display right here. Even Mater works as a character, and I say this as a man with bona fide hatred for Lawrence "what of Arabia?" Whitney.

Make no mistake, until Cars 2...Pixar was batting a thousand.
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10:30AM on 08/23/2011

He's more like Jordan

Lightning McQueen never raped anybody (anything?)
Lightning McQueen never raped anybody (anything?)
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10:24AM on 08/23/2011
Cars is very meh to me. I started the exact opposite to you having loving the movie when I first saw it. However, after repeated viewings (thanks to multiple nephews), it became just an average movie for me. I love the racing scenes and Paul Newman in it, but it gets really slow when Lightning stays in the small town.

At least in Cars, Mater was held back. That's not the case for Cars 2. Mater Overload.
Cars is very meh to me. I started the exact opposite to you having loving the movie when I first saw it. However, after repeated viewings (thanks to multiple nephews), it became just an average movie for me. I love the racing scenes and Paul Newman in it, but it gets really slow when Lightning stays in the small town.

At least in Cars, Mater was held back. That's not the case for Cars 2. Mater Overload.
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+1
10:09AM on 08/23/2011
I never thought Cars was awful, it's a pretty decent animated film. I just don't like it as much as my favorite Pixar movies like Ratatouille, the Toy Stories, etc. I definitely think it was made with more of an outright and overt appeal to younger kids specifically, with less of an attempt to hook adults. And there's nothing wrong with that.
I never thought Cars was awful, it's a pretty decent animated film. I just don't like it as much as my favorite Pixar movies like Ratatouille, the Toy Stories, etc. I definitely think it was made with more of an outright and overt appeal to younger kids specifically, with less of an attempt to hook adults. And there's nothing wrong with that.
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10:08AM on 08/23/2011
Children go apeshit for this movie. It shouldn't have to be defended.

So it doesn't work for all ages as much as THE INCREDIBLES or WALL-E. Who cares?
Children go apeshit for this movie. It shouldn't have to be defended.

So it doesn't work for all ages as much as THE INCREDIBLES or WALL-E. Who cares?
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+10
9:59AM on 08/23/2011

Stockholm Syndrome

The premise for your argument in favor of "Cars" invalidates your entire defense of the film.
You bought the movie for your 2-year-old son who loved cars and trucks at the time. You were thereby subjected to having to watch the movie 30-40 times. You did not CHOOSE to watch it, you were forced to watch it in order to appease your son.
You were held hostage, and much like those who develop a kinship and identify with their captives, you too grew to accept "Cars" because you were the victim
The premise for your argument in favor of "Cars" invalidates your entire defense of the film.
You bought the movie for your 2-year-old son who loved cars and trucks at the time. You were thereby subjected to having to watch the movie 30-40 times. You did not CHOOSE to watch it, you were forced to watch it in order to appease your son.
You were held hostage, and much like those who develop a kinship and identify with their captives, you too grew to accept "Cars" because you were the victim of the Stockholm Syndrome.
Your article is moot.
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10:03AM on 08/23/2011
Hilarious! However, if this was true then I would love Thomas the Tank Engine. That is 100% not the case.
Hilarious! However, if this was true then I would love Thomas the Tank Engine. That is 100% not the case.
9:46AM on 08/23/2011
It's an okay flick for adults and children. Personally I thought of "Doc Hollywood" when I first watched the movie.
It's an okay flick for adults and children. Personally I thought of "Doc Hollywood" when I first watched the movie.
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9:33AM on 08/23/2011

It's just "okay"...

Of course the animation is unmatched but the story just started to really bore me after the first hour.
Of course the animation is unmatched but the story just started to really bore me after the first hour.
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