As others have pointed out, the plot of Cars is a rehash of Doc Hollywood: hot shot rookie racing car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is on his way to the big final race of the season when he gets separated from his support truck, and is pulled over for speeding through the sleepy town of Radiator Springs. He is sentenced to fix the town’s main street, and in the course of serving out his time, he finds friendship, love, and a certain amount of humility. The small-town core of the film is bracketed on both sides by a sports underdog plot that can’t help but stir the heart.
Outstanding computer animation is commonplace these days, but Pixar still manages to produce films that are–visually, at least–a cut above the rest. Cars is probably the most beautiful film they have done to date, but because they make it seem so effortless you probably won’t even realize it until the film is over and you think about some of the sequences. It isn’t as complex a film as The Incredibles, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a perfectly judged classic family film, the like of which is hard to find these days. The story is rich and well paced, the characters are memorable and likeable, and its wholesome themes are so well integrated that they don’t trigger waves of message-induced nausea. When it (inevitably) becomes a daily feature in our living room as soon as it is released on DVD, I won’t object in the least.