Cars (2006)

There are so few universal truths left in this world. Death and taxes. Coke is far superior to Pepsi. And Cars is considered one of – if not the – worst films to ever come out of Pixar Animation Studios.

I call bullshit.

Sure, if you consider Up or Wall-E or Toy Story 3 as the toppermost of the poppermost of Mt. Pixar, I can see you considering Cars and its two sequels as more valleys than peaks. But the worst? Au contraire mon frère.

If Cars has committed any crime, it’s that it has the unfortunate position of being sandwiched between The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Let’s face it, that’s a no-win situation for 99.99% of all the movies out there in film history. The Kobayashi Maru of cinema.

Still, Cars is the movie that made me into the Pixar true believer than I am.

Allow me to explain.

When Cars came out in 2006, I wasn’t even remotely interested. I wasn’t a hater, but I was surely indifferent. I had been impressed by Pixar’s track record so far – Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., The Incredibles – but I wasn’t a car guy. I don’t like NASCAR. I prefer station wagons and utility vehicles over sports cars.

(Though I do love Vanishing Point and The Cannonball Run.)

(See also: Hot August Nights in Reno, Nevada.)

I may not have been a NASCAR fan, but you know who is? Like a gazillion people. Your friends and neighbors. You know who also likes cars? Freaking kids. My oldest daughter was twelve when Cars came out. She wanted to see it desperately and I relented, certain I was going to fall asleep before the previews ended. I was confident it was going to be a total snoozefest.

A total snoozefest pairing Owen Wilson and Paul freaking Newman. What a fool I was.

As I said, this was the film that changed my view of Pixar forever. I went from casual fan to the born-again. I drank the Kool-Aid. And the Kool-Aid was good.

And let’s get this out of the way right now. I adore Mater. So, you know, screw you if you don’t.

And while we’re on the subject of confessions, I cry every time I see this movie. And to hell with you, you unsentimental bastard for judging me if I do. I’ve cried in every single Pixar movie and a great number of their shorts as well. (See also: Lava, Lou.) When Lightning McQueen forfeits the race to help The King cross the finish line, if you don’t at the very least well up – particularly when you see old Doc Hudson smile – then stay away from mirrors my friend, because you won’t see a reflection.

I’m comfortable in my masculinity. To quote Tom Waits, “I got hair on my chest. I look good without a shirt on.”

When my youngest daughter was born, I became a stay-at-home dad. I would take her out in her stroller to parks and stuff, but babies sleep a lot. I had a lot of time to kill. There are only two movies so far that I have watched three times in one day. I’m not talking a single twenty-four hour period here. I’m talking morning until falling asleep. Sixteen hours or so.

I didn’t want the background noise to her early years being The Departed or Reservoir Dogs, so I chose relatively harmless fair that wouldn’t crawl into her psyche and start doodling. It’s a feat I haven’t accomplished since. But damn, those were good years.

Obviously Cars is one of those films, otherwise I wouldn’t have brought it up in the first place. The second?

My Cousin Vinny.

Watching Cars, inspired one of my many trips out to the Mother Road. I still haven’t made all the way from Chicago to LA, but I’ve put in some miles on Route 66. I have a shelf in my office filled with Cars cars. This movie has wormed itself inside my brain and refuses to leave. Call it a parasite if you will. I call it pure chewing satisfaction.

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M. Ruin

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