I will admit, I had rooted for this film, but was prepared to be dissappointed. I took my children this morning to a packed 10:30am show. I was very surprised by this film. Yes, it's a fish out of water story, but there was a part of this story that got to me and those who went with me in such a way it was hard to describe.
For some of us, we grew up in the shadow of Route 66. And while it had it's heyday, it's now an afterthought. I've read the posts in other forums and hear about "oh condoning gas guzzling" I will say this: the drive down 66, at a normal 55MPH is a lot better even if longer then people zipping along at 80 in their SUVs sucking down 10MPG
That having been said, that element of the story so got me that I and a few others I knew literally lost it when Steve and Porsche went out for a drive so she could show him all the great things that were there. As they looked over the interstate, and back into the past when the small town was jumping, it brought back so many thoughts of areas of rural Kansas that were once big points of traffic and now virtual ghost towns. At that point, I stopped thinking about their city as just "any city" they were basically telling a story of the towns I loved. And as they looked over the interstate, it really got me. This was a story as much about community as anything else; about how in all of the hustle & bustle, we forget these kind of things. I turned to my wife who was crying at that point, and I knew we were thinking about the same thing: this reminded both of us of the Riverton (KS); Bottlecap (MO); Galena, etc. Small towns were we still have friends.. that all still keep posters and signs up to commemorate when they were the stopping point for the nation.
At that point, the film had me. And it managed to play not just those angles, but almost every angle so well that the message just resonated with me. Yes, I've heard people reference "Doc Hollywood" and I've seen "Doc Hollywood" but "Doc Hollywood" wasn't half as good a film and did nothing to show a rural community as somwhere you would really want to be. "Doc Hollywood" did show it as a backwards cesspool with a few nice things. "Cars" took small communities and showed them as places that are proud of who they are, and they played it to the hilt.
I get the larger message about a fish out of water, and finding your way, but for a small-town kid, this film said so many things that are so difficult to convey to people about the joys of living in a rural community. (I grew up in a population 600 town). When they said "just so people could save ten minutes" It about killed me. The dialogue in those scenes was so dead on, so well written that it just made me feel like every small-town parade and festival where people remember "the good old days".
The movie itself had all the right asides, the right mix of jokes for kids, adult content for the parents. From having Harv as the agent (basically playing the same role as he does in Entourage) to the boys from Car Talk (which I loved). This was a film with just the right mix of everything. The parents near me laughed. And children cheered loudly at all the right moments.
This may be one of the better movie experiences I've had in a long time. And yes, I will admit, the very end was great I love that kind of message in a childrens film.
I sometimes wonder how this kind of film will be received somewhere like a Pittsburg, KS, or those areas now. I think for a lot of people, this movie contains a message that speaks so directly to them that if you didn't live right near there you will "get" the point, but if you lived there, went to school there, know the people, then it is so much of a gut check that it is hard to walk away from.
When Doc first just ordered the racer away "we don't need this fixed" it sounded to me like every small-town city council meeting I had been to where a town had decided to "give up" trying to keep up.
This may be my favorite of all of the Pixar films, and I would encourage people to see it multiple times - watch it once as a kid, appreciate the humor, the jabs and the incredible animation. But keep an eye out for what is happening as a town struggles to keep it's young home and it mourns those who have left for the big city. Been there, done that, and damn, onscreen I have never seen a film in any format really play it like it is. If I were to have seen this without the kids, I would have been absolutely weeping as they tell of the "big" vehicles who simply outgrew Radiator Springs and left 'oh, fifteen years ago' and their fear that eventually they will be forced to move to find work and life.