Monday, May 22, 2006

Why I'm Worried About Cars

Like most right-thinking movie-goers with kids, I'm a big fan of Pixar. They've had an unbroken streak of excellent family movies from Toy Story to The Incredibles, with the possible exception of A Bug's Life, which is merely pretty good. They really seem to get it: they make good movies about real characters, tell interesting and non-cliched stories, and cast those movies with actors rather than movie stars.

But their upcoming movie, Cars, has got me worried. Oh, yes, I know John Lassetter, the Savior of Animation and Disney's Great Hope, directed it himself (and it's his first movie since the magnificent Toy Story 2), but there are some things nagging at me:
  • First of all, it's a retelling of Doc Hollywood with racecars. Racecars are fine, but using such an obvious plot hook is worrying.
  • The trailer, frankly, is bland Hollywood pap. Oh, look! Racecars going fast! Gosh! A funny redneck tow truck!
  • The main character is named Lightning McQueen. Now, I'm sure "Lightning" sounds fast, and "McQueen" evokes the great Steve, but "Lightning McQueen" as a name immediately brings to mind "Butterfly McQueen," which is not what the movie-makers want.
  • All of the billboards have "Paul Newman" and "Owen Wilson" large above the movie title -- and the iron rule of animated movies is that promoting famous names means the movie stinks.
I hope I'm wrong, and the movie looks like it will be gorgeous (and I'm sure it will be pleasant and watchable), but I am worried.

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