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Oh Nit. “Irony” doesn’t actually mean anything, it’s just a word people say.
Let’s take a look at the movie.
The movie begins in, as Wikipedia so endearingly puts it, “a world inhabited by anthropomorphic transportation”. Lightning McQueen is a racecar who wants to be the first rookie racer to win the Piston Cup. He’s voiced by Owen Wilson, because someone in casting fucked up royal. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve got no problem with Owen Wilson generally. He’s been in a lot of movies that I really like. I particularly love his turn in Zoolander as male model Hansel (So hot right now. Hansel). But his laid back Texan schtick is not really schtick at all. He’s just a laid back Texan and sometimes that really works and sometimes it doesn’t. Problem with voicing an animated character however, is that you have to be, y’know, animated. Lightning McQueen is a big, big problem with this movie because Wilson is just coasting through this. It is just such a phoned in, dull performance. I felt like yelling at the screen all through this movie: “INFLECT! YOU SON OF A BITCH! INFLECT!” Alright, well McQueen is racing in the Piston Cup and the race announcers give us some exposition. In this race there’s McQueen, Strip Weathers who’s the reigning champ and Chick Hicks the perpetual runner up. Chick has got a grudge against McQueen because he feels it’s his turn to replace Strip as the top car and blah blah Days of Thunder blah blah. Chick causes a pileup to slow McQueen down but McQueen makes it through unscathed and the race goes on and on and on and oh my God how can a sport that features cars speeding at velocities in excess of 200 mph be THIS DAMN SLOW? The race comes down to Strip, McQueen and Chick while the mangled remains of the other cars are carted away. Because in a world of sentient cars, NASCAR is a fucking blood sport.
McQueen pulls into the lead, but because he’s such a loose cannon he doesn’t bother pitting and just as he’s getting to the finish line his tyres give out. This leads to him, Strip and Chick ending the race in a complete dead heat. As the officials look over the footage, McQueen’s pit crew tell him to screw off and Chick zings him with such bon mots as: “Hey McQueen, that was some real nice racing out there. BY ME!”
Alright, you know what? I will admit that Pixar, all things being equal, makes better movies than Disney. I admit it. Their ratio of great movies to bad ones is a lot higher than Disney’s. Maybe that’ll change as the decades go on, but as things stand, yeah. They make better movies overall. But Disney will always have the edge on Pixar in one area: Villains. Even in the good Pixar movies, the villains tend to be the least interesting characters. This is not a good Pixar movie. And Chick Hicks is not a good villain. Chick Hicks is Father Dick Byrne on wheels.
And I really, really hate Father Dick Byrne.
McQueen also talks with Strip, who’s voiced by legendary NASCAR racer Richard Petty and let me tell you, as an actor, Richard Petty is one hell of a racecar driver. Seriously, I think they may have cast him just so Owen Wilson would sound halfway alive by comparison. Strip tries to lecture McQueen on the importance of teamwork and having people you can rely on but McQueen just starts fantasizing about winning the Piston Cup. Not his fault really, no one could listen to him for too long, his voice is so boring that it’s impossible to concentrate on it.
In fact, Petty’s reading is so dull that McQueen actually has some kind of delusional psychotic episode, imagining himself as the new champion and spokesperson for Dinoco oil and painted blue. At least, I think it’s supposed to be McQueen, but honestly the car designs are all so generic that colour is the only way I know how to tell anyone apart (just like Ted Nugent). Maybe it’s not McQueen. Maybe it’s a new character. I’ll call him Blue McBlue.
McQueen gets…inside…Mack…(wow this world throws up some weird implications) and they head off to California. Mack wants to stop on the way and get some shut-eye but McQueen insists he drive all night long so that they beat Chick there. He promises Mack he’ll stay up with him and promptly falls asleep because he’s an assmobile. Sure enough, Mack falls asleep and after some shenanigans with some glow-in-the-dark hotrods McQueen gets shaken out of Mack’s trailer and onto the road. He wakes up and tries to chase after Mack on the highway. The music and the direction tries to make this a tense, desperate scene, something like Fievel Mouskewitz getting seperated from his family but it doesn’t work for three reasons:
1) McQueen is a car. On a road. I think he’ll be fine.
2) It shouldn’t really be in any doubt that the fastest racecar in the world can catch up to a truck.
3) I hate McQueen so much that I am praying to dark, cthonic gods that he gets stolen and set on fire in a field.
Anyway, McQueen chases a red truck that he thinks is Mack down a country road only to catch up to it and realise it’s not him. “I ain’t no Mack, I’m a Peterbilt” says the truck and I’m sure that’s a very funny joke if you know anything about trucks. If I knew anything about trucks, I am in no doubt that I would be rolling on the floor, ejecting fluids from every orifice on my body. McQueen goes tearing down the road and gets the attention of Sherriff, a cop car, who chases after him for speeding (why? You don’t arrest humans for running fast.). At first McQueen wants to stop and ask for Sheriff’s help but he hears his engine backfiring and thinks he’s being shot at. “He’s shooting at me!” McQueen squeals “Why is he shooting at me!?”
McQueen. He’s a lawman in the American Southwest. He doesn’t need a reason.
Sheriff chases McQueen into a small, one horse town called Radiator Springs. Hm, here’s a thought. If this is a world of sentient transportation, do horses exist? Or did the cars EVOLVE from horses? Or maybe they were once all chariots and wagons but needed horses to pull them around. In which case, were they in a symbiotic relationship with the horses, or were the horses part of them? Or maybe, maybe this is just a really stupid premise for a movie that doesn’t bear the slightest modicum of scrutiny. I guess we’ll never know. Anyway, McQueen ends of trashing the town and destroying main street and winds up hanging from a telegraph pole while Sheriff says, “Boy, you are in a heap of trouble”.
Meanwhile, Mack has arrived in California (I just realised, it’s not called “Carlifornia”? What the hell?) and discovered that McQueen’s gone missing. This sets off a media firestorm with everyone wondering where McQueen is. We see a montage of reactions from everyone from the governor of California (an Arnold Schwarzeneggar sounding Hummer) to TV comedian Jay Limo.
McQueen wakes up in the impound lot in Radiator Springs with a clamp on his wheel, staring into the ungodly ugly mug of Tow Mater, voiced by Larry The Cable Guy (of the Pennsylvania The Cable Guys).
And yes, I am aware that Planes was done by Disneytoons and not Pixar, whatever, they still bear responsibility.
Turns out Doc had a major wreck and when he was finally fit to race again he was told no one was interested in him anymore. Right. A beloved champion suffers a terrible near-death injury and then claws his way back in to competition, who wants to see that? Doc says that he doesn’t want the cars of Radiator Springs having to rely on someone from that world, and when McQueen protests Doc asks him to name one time he thought of someone other than himself. McQueen angrily says that if Doc is such good friends with the townsfolk why won’t he even tell them the truth about his past and Doc tells him to finish the road and screw off.
McQueen finishes the road and says goodbye to the grateful townsfolk. Before he goes, he acts like a one-car economic stimulus, buying tyres, a new paintjob, bumper stickers and fuel as his way of saying thank you. Stockholm syndrome’s a bitch, innit? And as a last good deed, as night falls he reveals that he fixed all the neon signs in town.
How did he do that?
He’s a car. He’s a car with no demonstrable electrical repair skills. How the fuck did he do that? No. No, I am not budging on this. That is bullshit. Stop the movie. Stop the movie now. I WANT ANSWERS GODDAMN IT!
ANGRY. AS. FUCK.
This is Pixar. They are supposed to be better than this. It’s not even that it’s terrible. Terrible movies can be genuinely entertaining. This movie coasts along at “competent”. But it is just so bland and lazy and stupid and so fucking badly written. I mean it, this is a weak, weak script. Alright, so the town celebrates with a dance on main street which consists of the cars driving up and down to music and is as riveting as that description makes it sound. Sally and McQueen share a moment but it’s cut short when the media descends on Radiator Springs having finally found the missing McQueen. Mack is also there and tells McQueen that they have to get to California, like, yesterday. McQueen says his goodbyes to Sadly and sally gets in the truck…
…and hits the road. One of the journalist cars thanks Doc Hudson and Sally realises that he was the one who tipped the media off. What a narcmobile.
In California the race between McQueen, Chick and Strip (A Quinn Martin Production. In Color!) starts and McQueen can’t keep his head in the game. He keeps getting flashbacks to Sally and Radiator springs and I really think this guy needs to get checked out for a tumour. But then Doc and the whole gang from Radiator Springs show up to act as his pit crew and McQueen starts to pull level in the race. One of the announcers exclaims “199 laps and it all comes down to this!”
199 LAPS!?! WHO WATCHES CARS GOING AROUND IN A CIRCLE FOR 199 FRICKIN’ LAPS?!!
WHO DOES THAT????!!!!!!
McQueen gets into the lead and Chick is so desperate to win that he actually causes Strip to crash. McQueen stops just short of the finish line and goes back, letting Chick win put pushing Strip over the finish line so that he can finish his last race. Because there’s no “I” in team and motor racing is a team sport.
So McQueen’s a hero, even though he didn’t win and Dinoco offers him the contract anyway out of the kindness and decency that oil companies are justly known for. McQueen turns it down for to stick with his old sponsors and instead sets up his new racing headquarters in Radiator Springs, saves the girl, gets the town…
Alright, I will admit I was wrong about this movie. It’s not a cash-in. Having gone and researched this film and watched it again it is obviously a labor of love, a love letter to cars, NASCAR and racing. The trouble with love letters is that, if they’re not addressed to you, they don’t tend to make good reading. Look, for a NASCAR fan I’m sure it’s a real thrill that they did stuff like casting Richard and Lynda Petty as anthropomorphized versions of the cars they drove, and that Strip Weathers’ crash is actually a frame by frame recreation of Petty’s infamous 1988 Winston Cup crash. Or gags like the Ferrari at the end voiced by Michael Schumacher (and wow that scene is not as funny anymore in light of recent events). But…no, sorry. This is just not that great a movie. The script has none of the pop we’ve come to expect from Pixar, the animation is lackluster when compared to the studios efforts before and since and Owen Wilson is just a massive charisma black hole at the centre of the whole thing. Yeah, believe it or not, Larry the Cable Guy is actually the best thing in this. The only bits I laughed at were the Mater scenes. So I guess you could say, I still hate it, but simply for being a lousy movie made with love than for being a cynical cash grab.