No Such Nonsense

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Where Did All the People Go, Pixar?

I went to see Cars at a matinee last week. It was me, my husband and 12 little girls who seemed to be celebrating a birthday. It was a Thursday afternoon and I've never watched a movie in so empty a theatre. But that wasn't nearly as surreal as what was on screen. The really unnerving thing about the film is that Pixar has created a world that is totally devoid of human beings.

One of the central conceits of all of the Pixar movies up to now has been the interplay between the 'imaginary' world of the main characters (Buzz and Woody, Nemo, Mike and Sully) with a human world that any kid could recognize. The main characters interact with each other primarily, but are always on the periphery of the 'real' world, represented by Andy in Toy Story, the dentist and his niece in Finding Nemo and Boo in Monsters Inc. This structure made the stories more delightful and magical, as kids could connect the charming stories to their own reality.

Now, in Cars, the world is constrained entirely to the vehicular realm. It isn't a big step to anthropomorphise the race cars, and even the vehicles of Radiator Springs, but where one would expect to see people in the stands watching the cars race and in the stands announcing the race, there are, in fact, other cars. This notion necessitates the suspension of a whole new level of disbelief. It's just weird. The movie's still a hoot - with great voicing by Owen Wilson, Paul Newman and Michael Keaton - but I found the lack of people cold and irksome. Not that the kids seemed to notice - they seemed to love it.


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