Saturday, 11 February 2012


2006, US, Directed by John Lasseter
Animation, Running Time: 116 minutes
Review Source: Blu-ray, Region B, Disney; Video: 1080p 24fps 2.39:1, Audio: DD TrueHD

When I originally caught a preview trailer of Cars on one of Pixar’s earlier DVDs (long prior to the film’s production completion) I thought it was a bit of a dunce idea to be honest. There was little there that looked appealing beyond the attractively designed graphics, so it was not on the priority viewing list (until favourable reviews and competitive online pricing forced me to reconsider). The story istelf would appear to arc in a similar fashion to most of the Rocky movies: Lightning McQueen (a nicely cast Owen Wilson) is a ‘dashing’ race car who’s pretty sure of himself and the film opens with him taking part in an exciting race where he ends up effectively crossing the finish line at exactly the same moment in time as a couple of his competitors, resulting in an indisputable tie. A rematch is scheduled for a week later but on a routine cross country trip the sleeping McQueen rolls out of his trailer, ending up in the middle of the desert. Realising his predicament he speeds on to catch up with the trailer but attracts the attention of a small-town police car, this resulting in a chase that wrecks half of the town followed by McQueen’s consequential court appearance. The locals decide that the race car should repair all caused damage to the road as his sentence before he’s permitted to leave, so with time against him (his showdown race takes place in mere days) McQueen sets about putting right his accidental wrongs as quickly as possible (after escape attempts prove fruitless of course).
What happened to animated feature running times? They used to be so short, partly because of the vast work involved and partly because target audience (children) attention spans were notoriously limited. Over time I suppose companies such as Pixar have realised the appeal of their work spreads to adults as well as their offspring, plus their famed storytelling abilities are clearly able to carry films beyond a conventional 80 or 90 minutes. That’s the case with Cars: an endearing story fills out a near two hour running time seemingly without effort, and there is little in there that’s worth ditching. Of course it’s about super confident McQueen being brought down a peg or two along the way, in addition to him learning that ‘winning’ isn’t the only thing that matters (something that no doubt conflicts with his ‘genetic’ foundations, being a race car and all that). There are a few other morals built in there, typical of Pixar movies certainly, and you can take or leave that side of things when there is so much else in there to revel in: animated anthropomorphism is absolutely world class, and no opportunity here for the cheat of motion capture either; dialogue is consistently smart and often amusing; pacing is maintained with periodic bouts of frantic activity - the races themselves are surprisingly rousing for example. Oh, of course there’s a bit of a love story built in for good measure, although a reasonable standard of taste is upheld - we don’t actually get to see the cars mating to produce Tonka Toys at any point… Despite my initial reservations Cars surprised me by proving to be a first rate movie experience. One final point that must be expressed: the visuals are absolutely stunning throughout, and this presents a perfect opportunity for Blu-ray to show off what it can really do (particularly given an appropriately sophisticated system). Colours are vivid beyond anything you could have hoped for in home cinema, while detail is unquestionably extensive. Standing a couple of feet away from a 70+ inch screen you realise that this transfer could be blown up to the size of a wall and still look sumptuous - this has to be one of the most gorgeous films ever crafted (animated or not), and with Blu-ray you damn well know it! Supporting the pictures is a thundering soundtrack courtesy of Dolby’s lossless audio codec, the likes of car revs vibrating your very skeletal structure. Extras seem to be pretty comprehensive (including a couple of shorts, serving Pixar tradition), though I've as yet not trawled through them. With A/V quality this thrilling the price is already justified.

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