I'll admit it: I'm a car guy. I'll drive anything any chance I get, I change my cars way too often and I will happily spend hours watching billboard-clad race cars drive around in circles. Heck I even blog about it. You'd think that Cars would be my perfect animated movie. And on one level it was. The multiple motorsports reference were fun to catch, as were the various cameos by race drivers from a variety of series and eras. Many of the details of the sport and its history were spot on (although some were way off) . . . . and yet, Cars is in many ways a major disappointment.
I've now seen it a couple of times in both the theater and on DVD, and on each viewing it felt as if it fell short of its intentions. In the featurette on the DVD, director John Lasseter explains that the movie is a metaphor for his own recent "slow down or burn out" experience. And perhaps therein lies the problem as the movie is in fact an exercise of metaphor packed on top of metaphor and idea piled upon idea to the extent that any real underlying plot is diluted. In fact that plot in itself lacks any real originality (think of it as "Doc Hollywood on wheels").
As much as I spend way too much time around cars, and have even been known to name them (OK -- it's a family tradition to give all our cars names), I still find the idea of anthropomorphic vehicles less than appealing. Once the joke about the car's make and its character has been made (the hippy VW bus, the military Jeep, the lawyer Porsche etc.), it very quickly gets stale. What didn't help Cars is the fact that none of the voice actors really managed to get beyond the physical limitations of the characters. And given the constraints of using a fixed limbless design, characterization had to be driven far more by the voice than in any equivalent "cute animal" animation.
The DVD includes the aforementioned "Inspiration" featurette that tells the story of Lassetter's family road trip down Route 66, and features a few behind the scenes moments during the movie's development. It doesn't really add much to the experience and seems a little over self-indulgent.
The best part of the DVD extras were the two shorts, the smart and stylish One Man Band, which played before Cars in theaters; and Mater And The Ghostlight, a slapstick comedy piece featuring the movie's breakout tow truck star.
The Deleted scenes mainly consist of rough storyboard sketches and are more along the lines of "alternative" story points rather than true deleted scenes.