I finally saw “Cars”. The name of the movie, and the characters, had led me to understand that the movie was based in the racing world.
Yes, the movie starts and ends on the oval. maybe the people in charge of advertising and marketing the movie aimed to draw the NASCAR crowd to the theatre. I’m not a fan of the continuous left-hand turn, so I took a while to get into a theatre to see the film.
While the main character is a race car, the movie takes place in the American badlands. Not about racing, the film is an homage to the sights we don’t see anymore as we drive interstates from urban center to urban center. (Yes, I prefer to spell the words “theatre” and “center”. Yes, it’s inconsistent. Deal with it.)
The end credits of “Cars” indicate this with long lists of thank-yous to out-of-the-way people, places, and attractions. The folks who made this movie love that land. So do I. The animated vistas enthralled me, reminded me of the times I’ve spent driving across Utah and walking through Montana.
About a week ago, I watched “The World’s Fastest Indian”, which shares the same love of wasteland/badland/desert scrub, the folks who live there, and their – ugh – values. Those values are an American myth – in the sense of a shared story, not a falsehood.
Disney has a series of videos at its “Cars” Web site. Look for the one titled “Kickin’ in on Route 66”. You see the moviemakers beginning to grasp the myth on a personal level.
My favourite in-joke in the movie is unusual for its irrelevance to Pixar (for those, see Wikipedia). It’s the “Serpentine, serpentine!” line borrowed from “The In-Laws” (the 1979 original). I was the only person in the theatre to crack up at that.
The movie’s original title was “Route 66”. See, that worked. “Cars” is too generic, and with a lead character covered in racing stickers, it misleads the potential audience. This isn’t a movie about cars or racing. It’s a movie about the abandoned territories we often now call flyover land.