Cars

Film
SMILES PER GALLON George Carlin's bus makes love, not war.
SMILES PER GALLON George Carlin’s bus makes love, not war.

Time Out says

About two minutes into Cars, a gooey, awed smile affixes itself to your face—and stays there. Not simply a flawless example of modern computer animation (a genre this critic is less susceptible to than most) but a moving one as well, Cars manages, beyond any reasonable expectation, to approach a parable of gearhead individuality and the open road, a balance of nostalgia and freedom that easily eclipses American Graffiti’s. It’s the Two-Lane Blacktop of animated movies.

Look under the hood and you’ll notice the mechanics are Pixar, the wizardly team responsible for Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. But nothing in their well-oiled fleet comes close to the sheer poetry of Cars’ reenvisioned Monument Valley: buttes in the shape of Cadillac tail fins, combining Old West sublimity and classic-car elegance. It’s a magical terrain, one in which “Lightning” McQueen (Wilson), a hothead race car more interested in endorsement deals and those curvy twin coupes back at the track, finds himself detoured. The forgotten town is called Radiator Springs, presided over by growly Doc Hudson (Newman, in one of his most winning turns), a roadster with a secret past.

Yes, a surrogate-father-son thing commences. But honestly, were you also expecting a tragedy of community depression? The need for speed but also love (embodied by a classy Carrera, voiced by Hunt)? A blustery California governor in the distinct shape of a Hummer? Cars is almost too loaded with smarts and sizzle for summer pit stops—which is fine by us. Could’ve done without “Life Is a Highway,” though. (Opens Fri; click here for venues.)—Joshua Rothkopf

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