Disney and Pixar’s 2006 film Cars was a hit for the kids and the parents. The animated film won a 2007 Golden Globe and brought in $462.2 million at the box office in the US. The story takes place following Lightning McQueen, a race car chasing the Piston Cup. He heads off to California to the next race against the King and Chick Hicks, but along the way his driver Mack falls asleep and loses him in a Podunk town called Radiator Springs. While Lightning is stuck there his racing agency is trying to find him. After some run ins with the locals he learns to love them and the slower pace lifestyle. Once his racing team finds him he faces a tough decision of returning to the fame and fortune of racing, or stay with the friends he’s made in Radiator Springs. The common message of the movie is that there is more to life than just winning, and the journey and the friends you make along the way are what truly matter. While this continues the classic Disney cliché messages, there’s also more of an adult side to the animated film that people often miss the first time watching it. The movie is filled with humor, but some of the jokes go over the heads of children while their parents understand them.
The positives of this movie were abundant. By using pathos throughout the film audiences were able to understand the meaning of friendships and family. At first McQueen is shown as an egotistical and rude character to his race crew and sponsors. But, then comes to a realization in Radiator Springs that if he is considerate of others and thinks less about himself, he can create great friendships. This is a positive message for younger viewers because as they are developing their characters, Lightning is also creating a better character himself. Pathos in the music and various scenes assist in teaching the positive message for kids.
As for some of the negatives, the first main instance of adult jokes in the movie is when Lightning McQueen’s groupies Mia and Tia show up after the race. Their paint jobs and stickers show that they are dedicated fans and while introducing themselves to Lightning they flash their headlights at him saying his famous phrase “Ka-chow”. To younger views they would not think much of this scene, just that the twins are big fans of him and his racing. On the flipside, parents watching would probably recognize that this gesture is similar to band groupies flashing their you-know-whats to their favorite star. Lightning goes on to look back and forth at the twins and saying “I love being me”, thus confirming that Disney and Pixar were most likely going for the adult joke. The next instance where an adult joke appears is when Lightning appear at his sponsors tent to say a few words. The rusty cars are talking about Lightning not have real headlights, and how they are just stickers. Lightning states “Well, you know, race cars don’t need headlights, because the track is always lit”. Then one of the Rust-eze cars says, “Well, so is my brother, but he still needs headlights!”. To children they probably only hear the conversation related to the stickers and headlights, while older viewers hear about the rusty cars brother being ‘lit’. This is in reference to being high or under the influence. Though this scene is very short, it is still referring to drugs and alcohol in a predominantly kid based movie.
Overall I think that Cars is a great movie for all ages, and one you can watch time and time again. Though it possesses some adult humor, it was strategically done to only catch the attention of older audiences, which may have made it more enjoyable for adults. As for the kids, their attention was drawn more to the action and race cars, thus completely missing the more mature content. While some may say that the references were not fit for a children's movie, the positives outweigh the negatives. I would give this movie four out of five stars for its cliché but meaningful message, and for having some humorous scenes for the adult viewers.