Some people wanted to think it would never happen, and some people still refuse to admit that it has, but, let's face it, it was inevitable: Pixar made a flop. After an unbroken string of animated masterpieces, from Toy Story to The Incredibles, they’ve unfortunately produced a forgettable failure.
While visually stunning and up to the animation standards we’ve come to expect from Pixar, the undisputed leader of contemporary animation studios, Cars has a lot of problems. First of all it tries too hard to pander to Middle America and the Nascar contingent. The film depends too much on a fascination with, and fetishization of, automobiles that’s above the head of anyone who rides the subway. Also, the script is as hackneyed and clichéd as the worst of children’s movies can be, although in fairness there are a good number of yuks along the way.
I’d happily overlook those problems, though with a disappointed heart, but ultimately what can’t be excused is the film’s generally sloppy construction. Owen Wilson voices Lightning McQueen, a vainglorious racecar who, on his way to the big championship race, gets lost and winds up in the small, humble town of Radiator Springs. The second act, in which McQueen is forced to adapt to his new situation, is unbearably predictable and drawn-out, as though Lasseter et al. are seriously trying to create a sense of tension as to whether or not McQueen will grow as character. Will he learn valuable lessons in friendship, teamwork, and modesty? As McQueen is "stuck" in Radiator Springs, so too is the film. For the first time in my life I seriously considered walking out of the theater, deciding instead to squirm in my chair and just wait for the damn thing to end.
On a hopeful note, the trailer for the next Pixar film, Ratatouille, looks very promising. Hopefully this will be an isolated miscarriage and they’ll soon return to form. After all, the short at the beginning of the film, One-Man Band, was, as is Pixar's praxis, phenomenal.