CARS (John Lasseter). 116 minutes. Opens Friday (June 9). For venues and times, see Movies, page 123. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Pixar 's winning streak is over. After dominating the feature animation field with beautifully crafted films about talking toys, fish and has-been superheroes, they stall with Cars , a merely okay film about a race car named Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson ).
The cocky orange-red car claims he doesn't need a pit crew -- on the race track or in life -- enroute to superstar success. When he finds himself stranded in small-town America on the way to the big race, however, he learns a lesson or three about friendship.
Pixar has always impressed with its strong scripts, non-traditional casting and vivid inventiveness in creating completely imagined animated worlds. The universe in Cars is as dull as an old oil can -- and illogical. Cars are made to be driven by people, so where are they? (Toy Story had people.) Why would a car live in a house with a white picket fence? Why don't the cars use their doors to help them manipulate things?
The pun-filled script and songs are obvious. "Care for a Lincoln Continental breakfast?" tells you about the former, Life Is A Highway the latter.
Wilson, never the most expressive actor in person, injects little energy into this vehicle, and Bonnie Hunt as his sporty love interest (gee, how do cars have sex?) is oddly deflated. Supporting players Larry The Cable Guy and Tony Shalhoub , however, get a few laughs as, respectively, a corn-pone tow truck and an Italian Fiat tire dealer.
Make sure you stay for the closing credits, a gag reel about former Pixar flicks that will have you laughing more than you did during the previous 110 minutes.