Quick Take: Cars will rev your heart's engine.
This movie fires on all cylinders! The idea that racecars, pickup trucks, 18-wheelers, police cruisers, a blimp, you name it, would have totally believable human emotions is something that Pixar pulls off perfectly. (Hey, they've done it with toys and bugs and monsters and rats, so why not?) The attention to detail in the movie's look, from the cars' shining headlights to gorgeous cloud formations to all kinds of fantastical landscapes, is mind-boggling real -- you'll think you can just reach out and touch these characters! It's ultra-shiny and contemporary, too, making the idea of these very-human talking cars and trucks utterly believable. The story, with its underlying message of "it's the journey, not the destination" is one parents and kids will take to heart, inspiring you to really look around and get off that beaten path once in a while. Then there's the pumped up music by the likes of Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, Brad Paisley, and Rascal Flatts ("Life is a Highway") that'll appeal to the whole clan.
Kids Will Like:
The computer animation is state of the art and they'll love the movie's sparklingly real look, which is eye-pleasing and great fun to watch. The story of Lightning, trying to make his way out west for the big race, is engaging, and even though he's a bit arrogant, kids will love his can-do spirit and will be routing for him. Kids will enjoy the entire cast of characters; my 10-year-old nephew's favorite is Mater, the redneck pick-up truck. He's an absolute hoot, and about as endearing a pick-up truck as you'll ever find. Unless you're a tractor: Mater has a fondness for tractor tippin', a nighttime sport in which he sneaks up on sleeping, snoring tractors in the field and blows his big horn, frightening them and causing them fall backwards with a "moo." ("I swear," Mater chuckles, "tractors is so dumb!") And Mater turns out to be the world's best backward driver.
Parents Will Like:
Besides the film's dazzling visuals, its personality-packed characters, and the underlying theme of getting off the fast track and savoring the little things in life, there are cool cameo vocals (too many to mention). But there's one by George Carlin, a hippie-era VW van named Fillmore (he's a Jimi Hendrix fan), and another by the guys from NPR's Car Talk program. The dialogue throughout is first-class (you'll never get it all in one viewing), and there's even an hysterical Kenny G reference, played as Mack begins to doze while driving. Ultimately grown-ups will appreciate that this very modern high-tech film is so smart, good-spirited, and family-friendly. The oh-so-real "facial" expressions on the cars are priceless ... as is Paul Newman as Doc Hudson, the aging one-time racing star who lives anonymously in Radiator Springs. And the nuanced message of getting out of the fast lane and enjoying the scenery. And the not-so-nuanced one that winning isn't everything.
There is some serious car banging during the big races and in other fuel-injected driving and chase scenes, but nobody (or should we say no vehicle) really gets hurt. The movie starts with a fairly lengthy race scene, and it takes several minutes for the story to kick into gear. Although it's fun to watch all that eye-popping action, little kids might tend to get a bit restless. Mack, the big truck responsible for transporting Lightning to the big race in California, dozes off at the wheel, only to be awoken when a hot rod named Snot Rod sneezes in the passing lane. But not before Lightning unwittingly slides out the back of the truck and proceeds to get lost. The dialogue is razor sharp, though there are a couple references to "hillbilly hell." And the movie itself clocks in at just under two hours, so young ones might need more than one sitting to get through it all.
You bet your mud flaps! Cars is more than a high-octane story; it's one filled with heart and soul. And it's absolutely gorgeous to look at. Pixar has perfected the art of appealing to all ages, and this is beauty is one you'll want to watch again and again.