It looks incredible, is technically flawless and oozes charm. But if judged against Pixar’s previous six features, Cars wouldn’t trouble the podium. Like Michael Schumacher, the Toy Story team have spent so long leading the pack that rivals have edged up behind. Indeed – unheard of in previous years – there were other summer ‘toons (Over The Hedge, say) which matched Pixar’s fuel-injected foray into computerised comedy.
That said, the studio’s fish-out-of-water scenario, propped up by four-wheel puns, remains choice anthropomorphic fodder. A stellar cast (Owen Wilson, Paul Newman) and the thrill of the opening stadium race add to the story’s timely reminder to slow down and take it easy. What crumples Cars, however, is its overriding concept: a world in which every inhabitant comes with an MOT. Where are the people? The animals? The roadkill? And who produces the gas that John Lasseter’s chrome creations guzzle with such blatant disregard for the environment? The commentary with Lasseter, unavailable at press time, should make for interesting listening, while new animated shorts Mater And The Ghostlight (featuring Cars’ rusty tow-truck) and the hilarious One Man Band (an egotistical street performer meets his match) both illustrate Pixar at their creative peak. The same can’t be said of the feature, maybe, but let’s not lose sight of one simple fact: next to some of the dross Pixar has inspired (The Wild, say), it’s still streets ahead.