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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that in Cars, the automobile characters do some pretty raucous racing, careening off walls, trees, and each other. A group of The Fast and the Furious-style vehicles briefly threaten another car. Cars argue with one another, lose their tempers, and look sad or lonely. There's some innocent flirtation between boy and girl cars. Some mild language -- at least one use of "hell." At 116 minutes, it's on the long side for animation and may be too much for some really little kids. But stick around for the closing credits!
What's the story?
As his name suggests, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is all about speed in CARS. A hotshot red stock car who's poised to be the next champion -- Lightning wants to win the coveted Piston Cup. As the movie begins, he hits the track in a race against two legendary race cars. A dead-heat finale sends these three key contenders off to a showdown. Lightning boards his transport truck Mack (John Ratzenberger) and aims west along Route 66, but he's sidetracked when he falls off the truck in a small town where he meets his life teachers, including Sarge the reveille-playing, surplus-selling Jeep (Paul Dooley), Ramone the hyper-detailed lowrider (Cheech Marin), and new best friend, Mater the tow truck (Larry the Cable Guy) provides the requisite proud-to-be-a-redneck jokes. Sentenced to community service, Lightning tries to escape but eventually gives in. Lightning grumbles on the night shift, but by day, he discovers the beauty of the western landscape, all big skies and grand canyons, the sort of mythic imagery that, according to the movie's nostalgia, families once drove across country to consume.
Is it any good?
Colorful and often charming, this film renders its nostalgia for a mythic past via state-of-the-art technologies. But once Lightning settles into the small town, the door opens for marketing opportunities. Cars reframes many youthful fancies as consumable objects, ensuring that movie and NASCAR tie-in products will be in circulation.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the relationship between the old cars and the newer ones in Cars. They have different values. How does the film set up a choice between the current era (selfishness, commercial and celebrity culture run rampant) and a more ethical-seeming past (Doc embodies patience, skill, and dedication to community)?
How does Lightning learn to appreciate and also, conveniently, enhance that simpler life?
- In theaters: June 9, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: November 7, 2006
- Cast: Bonnie Hunt, Owen Wilson, Paul Newman
- Directors: Joe Ranft, John Lasseter
- Studio: Pixar Animation Studios
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Cars and Trucks, Friendship
- Character Strengths: Humility, Integrity
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- MPAA explanation: all audiences
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.