Flickchart Comment #19: Back to the Future (1985) over Cars (2006)


Back to the Future (1985) My current Flickchart ranking: 117
Cars (2006) My current Flickchart ranking: 2768


How high a bar has Pixar set that a film as seemingly entertaining and well-produced as Cars is their worst film?

Mind you, I have not said that Cars is a bad film. I laughed quite a lot watching it, and it features perfectly lovely animation, humorous voice work and clever character designs. The measure that counts most for Pixar, that of its youth audience, have largely voted to the extreme positive on this (especially where merchandising is concerned), but by any measure, Cars is a very good film.

So, beyond what I have said already, why no real love from me? One might say, since I do not drive at all, that it might be a mark of my remoteness from the motoring world in general. After all, upon watching it, I was thrown off course so thoroughly that I could never find my way back to the main road. But I knew going into the film that my personal disregard for motor vehicles might cause a negative reaction to it, so I tried (in vain, it turns out) to approach the film with my mind set to my seven-to-twelve-year-old self.

That version of myself loved cars as much as I did dinosaurs. I collected Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, had miles of Hot Wheel tracks and several of the powered deluxe sets, raced slot cars regularly at my friends' houses, built the occasional car model, and most importantly towards approaching the movie Cars, had my cars talk to each other like they were people. My brothers and I would combine this tendency towards anthropomorphization when playing with the rest of our toys, laying out massive cities with our Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, Legos, Fisher-Price buildings and Hot Wheel sets, and treated our action figures, stuffed animals, cars, boats, and anything else to which we decided to attach a human personality as citizens equal in stature within our toy utopia. We acted out improvised scenarios that, to our minds, trumped anything writ by ol' Billy Shakes, even if the actual result was mainly three brothers fighting over who got to be what and who got their way. Still, it was generally a great time.

And it was the memory of these play sessions that I carried with me into Cars. So, why didn't it work? What happened to cause me to actually spurn a film from my beloved Pixar, despite acknowledging its general excellence as a production? I couldn't make the leap. Suspension of disbelief didn't happen, and that is always a killer. I couldn't figure out where the people were. Why did these cars exist, if there weren't people around to create them? Was it even more intelligent design? (If so, where were the alternate energy choices?) Were the cars merely extensions of their human owners, thus making the humans totally invisible to both the cars and the camera? If so, then why did buildings change (such as the hotel) to suit the cars? To me, it all seemed (especially given the desert surroundings) like an eerie, post-apocalyptic future where cars somehow gained sentience (perhaps it exists in the Terminator universe). And that just didn't seem all that fun... plus, that future still seemed to have rednecks in it.

And when Cars has to face off against Back to the Future, a film for which I did not have to make a mental adjustment when seeing and which also stands as one of my favorite comedies and science-fiction films, it makes for no contest at all. Sorry, Pixar. You are the victim of your own success. Cars might seem pretty good, but you can't outrace Marty McFly...

Here's me on Flickchart: http://www.flickchart.com/Cinema4Pylon. Accounts are absolutely free. Join the fun and see how your favorite movies rank!

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