Just saw The Incredibles today. Very good, possibly my favorite Pixar film yet, although like Finding Nemo, it lacks the constantly-topping-itself third act that distinguished all the films from Toy Story to Monsters, Inc.
For the first time, the Pixar short before the movie was just plain dumb. Some nonsense about a dancing sheep getting sheared and a stupid bouncing jackalope. Extremely unimpressive. Weird that they would pair their edgiest film yet with their most infantile, but there you go.
Also included was the trailer for Cars, the next movie from our Emeryville friends, which--man, I just don't know. I'm about as big a fan of sentient car movies as you're likely to find, but Cars, well--doesn't look good. Hard to believe, since it's Pixar, but it just looks uninspired.
-It looks like a feature-length Chevron ad.
-The hillbilly-sounding pickup truck. It's a redneck voice in a truck, complete with buck teeth. If there's a cheaper target for comedy, I haven't seen it.
-Fucking windshield eyes. If you wanted to make one change and make me like this movie about 75% more, you would make the headlights the eyes. It's the natural choice, and even the Chevron cars do it. Putting the eyes in the windshield is in the spirit of old-school Disney cartoon car depictions, most notably "Susie, the Little Blue Coupe," an animated short you can find on the Love Bug DVD (only due to the thematic similarity--there's no actual link between them). Anyway, I hated it in the old cartoon, and I hate it here too. Windshield eyes are stupid, and distance me too much from the idea that this is an actual functioning car, and if there's actual eyes that blink filling the windshield , how can a human possibly drive the car? Well, this leads to the next point...
-It's apparently a world without humans. A bizarre car-planet where NASCAR-like races have their checkered flag waved by a Mini Cooper holding a flag, and the spectators are other cars. Previous Pixar movies tended to involve sub-worlds related to the real one, like the secret world of bugs or toys or monsters or superheroes living among us. Oh yeah, or fish. But to postulate an alternate universe inhabited by living cars? A bit much, perhaps. Couldn't this have been to cars what Toy Story was to toys?
-Back to the NASCAR bit that takes up a big chunk of the teaser. Between this and Herbie: Fully Loaded, isn't Disney stepping on its own toes a bit? How many sentient car movies with stock-car racing tie-ins can an audience see in one year? It seems like it's asking a lot for the answer to be more than one.
-It seems unambitious. We've gone from toys to bugs in nature to hairy monsters to underwater environments to actual human characters, and each step seemed like a bigger, more exciting challenge for computer animation. But it seems like Cars could have been animated as easily as Toy Story. Just a lot of smooth surfaces.
-I still have no sense of the story or the point of view of the movie. Since all beings are cars, I have no sense of how they relate to the world, since the whole world created is now foreign. A year ago, when our only glimpse of The Incredibles was Mr. Incredible struggling to buckle his belt (it's not in the movie, by the way), we got it--middle-aged superhero past his prime. The whole concept was clear and we instantly wanted to see it. Cars shows us a redneck truck hitting a bee, a sportscar that hits a swarm of bugs, then a bunch of stock cars jockeying for position, then the redneck truck and the sports car expressing enthusiasm about the movie. Well, I'm glad they're excited. I wish I were. I really want to like any movie about cars.
-You can't hear it too well in the online version, but that's Green Day they use over the racing bits. It was much more effective in the theater.
-Owen Wilson is the sports car. Once I realized this, I liked it much better, even though the sports car still doesn't say anything funny. Virtually anything Owen Wilson says is funny simply for hearing him say it.
-I do like cars. And it's Pixar, and however lame this teaser is, they have done no wrong for six movies, so how bad could it be? On the other hand, as the bouncing jackalope short reminds us, nobody's perfect.
-It's sad to think that all the wonderful characters Pixar has created from Toy Story up through The Incredibles will be Disney's to wreck with their inevitable crass, awful sequels and cut-rate direct-to-video tie ins. Maybe Cars is Pixar's fuck-you farewell film to Disney, closing out their contract without giving away any more of their good characters. Unfortunately, given the advance development time required, as well as the fact that it would not do Pixar any good to leave Disney on a flop, this is probably not the case.