Baby, You Can Drive My Car

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One of the many advantages of having a child in one’s life is that it provides an excuse for going to kid flicks. So on a recent Saturday morning, armed with popcorn, nachos, KitKat Bites, an assortment of Matchbox cars with names like “Chick Hicks” and “Tow Mater,” and that all-important toddler, I went to a viewing of “Cars,” the seventh straight hit for Pixar entertainment (“Toy Story,” “Monsters, Inc.,” “The Incredibles,” etc.).

This is one of the sassiest in the Pix- ar collection, with Luke Wilson’s wry delivery as the voice of racecar Lightning McQueen (affectionately named for the late Steve McQueen) leading a cast of hilarious car characters voiced by Cheech Marin, Larry the Cable Gu~ George Carlin, and even the great Paul Newman. Like the best kid flicks, “Cars” entertains on several levels, fun for my young companion but full of inside jokes and witty enough for me to enjoy it, too.

The soundtrack, featuring rock hits like Chuck Berry’s “Route 66” and Rascal Flatts’ “Life is a Highway,” introduces a sentimental new Randy New- man song, “Our Town,” sung by James Taylor and sure to be given an Oscar nod next spring, though it is unlikely to win. (Randy Newman’s music has been nominated 15 times in the past two decades, but he has received only one Oscar.)

Best of all, “Cars” avoids that bane of kid flicks, the evil corporate bad guy.

Well, oka~ McQueen’s nemesis, Chick Hicks, is sponsored by HTB (Hostile Takeover Bank), but that’s as far as it goes. In every other respect, commerce is presented in a favorable light, considered necessary for the growth and well-being of a town. Corporate sponsors finance the races and provide living expenses for the competitors in exchange for advertising. The real bad guy in this movie is, believe it or not, the government, in the form of the Federal Highway Administration.

On his way to California for a big race, McQueen falls out of his transport truck and ends up in Radiator Springs, a once-thriving town that dried up when the new federal high- way passed it by. All the shop owners (played as cars, of course) suffer, from Flo, the vintage Cadillac who runs the diner; to Luigi, the Italian sports car who sells tires; to Ramone, the low-rider who runs the paint shop. McQueen helps repair the road and clean up the storefronts, but it is his business decision to move his racing headquarters

The real bad guy in “Cars” is, believe it or not, the government, in the form of the Federal Highway Administration.

 

to Radiator Springs that eventually attracts a steady flow of new customers, stimulating the economy, and saving the town.

Even Sally, the Porsche who left life in the fast lane to return to her┬Ěhome town of Radiator Springs, acknowledges that customers and commerce are vital. “Things won’t be the same,” she says, when the town perks up to receive new customers, but she realizes that the town can thrive without destroying the environment. That’s quite a concession from a movie today, considering how many Hollywood activists want to force everyone else’s environment to remain stagnant, just so they can enjoy the view.

During summer when Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” (91% approval from the critics, a mere $9 million in box office sales) claims that cars and big business are destroying the planet, it’s nice to see a movie called “Cars” ($156 million in its first three weeks) leaving it in the dust.

Find a kid, buy some popcorn, and strap yourselves in for a fun ride.

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