Friday, June 16, 2006

And 101 Dalmatians Was Really About Korea

Very little irritates me more than the strained application of political explanations to every last product or phenomenon on the planet. Cars, the new movie about talking cartoon automobiles, has everyone referencing some very non-cartoony global issues. Here's Anthony Lane in this week's New Yorker:
The animation of the inanimate has been a staple from the dancing brooms of “Fantasia” right up to the talking clock in “Beauty and the Beast” and the remote-control car in “Toy Story.” ... Now, in “Cars,” we have the rise of the machines, and it comes at a peculiar time. With the price of oil gurgling upward, and even the President conceding that the nation’s fuel consumption could use a trim, Pixar has produced a hymn to the ecstasy of driving. The entire film dreams woozily of a chrome-bright past, and especially of the glory days of Route 66...
Is a dreamy paean to the ecstasy of driving ever really untimely? That notion shocks me. (Forget about the fact that current disillusionment would make such backward-gazing wooziness more explicable, not less; less "peculiar," not more. It pains me to point out uncharacteristic sloppiness from Lane, who I unrepentantly worship.)

Granted, I live in New York, and so don't have to worry on a practical level about the price of gas, but I constantly miss driving. And when I was in Texas last month, I happily fed my credit card to the pump in order to buy my time on the highway. Just in the past week, in discussions completely unrelated to computer-drawn cars that break out into songs penned by Randy Newman, I've had two Manhattanites tell me how much they, too, miss getting behind the wheel. The point is, I don't know anyone who confuses their political thoughts or frustrations about petroleum prices with their occasional overwhelming desire to roll down a window and listen to their car stereo.

Much more politically absurd and strident (surprise) is Charles Mudede at The Stranger (Seattle's alternative weekly). After quoting someone else's analysis of Cars' relatively lackluster opening at the box office, which cited, among other sensible reasons, "a glut of computer animated films this year," Mudede writes:
The length? Too much competition? Creative exhaustion? How about this, guru: A whole lot of us are (in) no mood to celebrate —- to laugh at, to laugh with -— the very machines that have turned Iraq into a death factory. Disney should have stuck with cute toys and lovable animals -— cars can never be anything but political.
After reading that, I think the more apt conclusion would be that Charles Mudede can never be anything but political. He must be fun at parties. ("I would partake, but guacamole can never be anything but political.") A Stranger reader responding to the piece beat me to my comment, and put it more succinctly than I would have:
My God, you hippies come unglued for the most ridiculous reasons. How about this theory: what if the movie just sucks? Naw, what was I thinking. It must be a massive geopolitical entertainment revolt centered around the war.
But now I'm reading that the movie might not suck as much as I feared. I think I have to see it -- not only to give it a chance after loving every other Pixar movie, but also to counteract Mudede's overly earnest boycott. Come to think of it, maybe everything is politically motivated.



Blogger Jamal Alsaffar said...

Let me end this argument really quickly, both because I am not stupid and because I have seen the movie with my son.

First, you are right, this is not a "play the Beatles backward" political thome. Quite simply, it is a movie about cars because Disney is shrewd. What is the fastest growing "sport" in America right now? Nascar. This is business. End of discussion.

Second, the movie isn't doing well because, quite frankly, it is not that good. As the father of two young boys, I have seen and enjoyed Pixar's previous endeavors because they were surprisingly good stories weaved into a great children's flick. Nemo and Monsters, Inc. deserve all the acclaim they have received. My son still watches those movies over and over again.

Cars? Jack asked me to leave no less than 20 times because it was boring. Very good at the beginning, very good at the end, and a long slow "small town" tale in the middle. Not a good recipe for a kids movie. Save your money John. Al Capone's vault is empty, the Lock Ness Monster isn't in Ireland, and Hoffa isn't buried in Giants Stadium. This movie just ain't that good...

10:48 AM  

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