Just another kids’ movie. I didn’t watch it when it came out, but then again, I don’t watch that many movies in the cinema nowadays. Nor did I watch it on TV or video. But, again, as a night cabbie, I don’t have that much time for evening television.
Oddly enough, Cars is a movie that I’ve listened to many, many times. Driving down to Charleston in BookCrosser Crrcookie’s awesome van, with the flip-down video screens and the library stowage bins and the wonderful travelling bookcart, and again last year between Kansas City and Oklahoma City, the movie played again and again for the entertainment of Cookie’s son Lilgrovers, who is one of the coolest youngsters I’ve ever met.
He loves this movie!
But I always got to ride in the front seat, whether driving or pretending to navigate, and so I couldn’t see the screen just behind my head, nor hear the movie soundtrack clearly.
Once, we were actually driving along Route 66 through Chandler, Oklahoma while it was playing, and I’m rapidly becoming a Route 66 bore. “It’s about Route 66,” Cookie said, so I mentally made a note that, if I ever had a moment when I wasn’t doing anything useful, I’d watch this kiddie movie about cartoon cars racing along Route 66.
Well, about a month ago, Cars came up on television on one of my rare nights off, and I sat down to watch it. Now, you can count me in with Lilgrovers.
I love this movie!
The plot hits my buzzer. Bad boy becomes good guy – that’s pretty much how it goes. There’s a philosophical lesson here, and I love it. Seeing selfish racecar Lightning McQueen learn how to become a team player and gain friends is heartwarming stuff. His relationship with Mater the tow truck is a stand-out.
The characters. A microcosm of America, each of the cars, from Sarge the army jeep to Sally the retired lawyer, has a distinct personality. Sarge seems to have a thorny relationship with Fillmore the psychedelic VW Kombi – “The ’60s weren’t good to you, were they?” – but they are almost always seen side by side.
The crusty old town judge, Doc Hudson voiced by Paul Newman, turns out to be a fascinating character indeed. He has something that Lightning McQueen craves, but instead of living in a Hollywood mansion surrounded by adoring young sportscars, he is out to pasture in a bypassed town on a deserted highway.
Frank. I just love Frank the harvester, who makes a startling but memorable appearance when Lightning and Mater mount a midnight raid on his harem of tractors.
The whole movie is gently humorous, full of little touches. At the racetrack opening sequence, the stands are full of spectator cars adorned with souvenirs, the washrooms have a queue of female cars while the boy cars whiz in and out. Mack, McQueen’s transporter truck amusing himself on a long cross-country trip by making faces in the reflection from a brightly polished tanker trailer just ahead. Mack, on discovering that the media is focussed on his rear end – “What? Did I forget to wipe my mudflaps?”
The guys obviously had a lot of fun with this movie. Fun and love. There’s affection everywhere for the characters, the story and above all the setting.
The old bypassed Route 66 town of Radiator Springs is first encountered late one sleepy night. Little bugfly cars with wings crawl on the fluorescent lights as Sarge and Fillmore gaze at the blinking amber traffic light. “I’m tellin’ you, man, every third blink is slower.”
The town is slowly dying. No tourist cars stop to browse souvenirs at Radiator Springs Curios, dhop Sarge’s Army Surplus store – “We already have too much surplus!”, says a rare visitor – or buy at Luigi’s “Casa Della Tires”. Sally’s Crazy Cones Motel remains empty. The stretch of Route 66 running through the town is cracking and unmaintained.
The dramatic arrival of Lightning McQueen, lost out of Mack’s transporter in a mishap, changes everything. At first resenting his enforced stay in “Hillbilly Hell”, he gradually develops an affection for the town and its inhabitants, who repaint and restore their shops, turn on their classic neon signs and gain new hope.
Following a climactic final race with a surprise ending, we learn how it all works out for the little town and its loveable residents.
Just like the real Route 66 and its string of decaying towns yearning for the glory days, Radiator Springs symbolises the nostalgia and rebirth of the Mother Road. Adventure travellers motor along the remaining lengths of narrow Portland cement, enjoying the restored diners, motels, bridges and views.
As Mack heads west, carrying McQueen to California along I-40, we see stretches of the old Route 66 winding along beside the new sixlane. The scenery becomes more and more spectacular, with mesas and canyons appearing, jagged peaks on the skyline.
I’ve driven along Route 66 with Discoverylover. Just a half a day in Oklahoma, but we sought out some of the original sections of the road, weeds pushing through the concrete slabs, and drove along winding sections, over picturesque bridges, following the contours, past living rooms and shops and museums.
I loved it. Every mile of the old road. The day was grey, threatening rain, but sparkles happily in my memory. One day soon I’ll drive the whole highway.
Cars has one delightful scene, where McQueen and Sally cruise and race along the highway, through valleys and forests, splashing through rivulets and fallen leaves, over a bridge before a waterfall, eventually exploring an old roadhouse set into one of those spectacular rock outcrops. It’s a dream sequence, and it inspires McQueen to glory.
And me. I love this film. I watch it again and again. It’s not just for kids.
- IMDB entry for Cars