Monday, November 13, 2006
Cars is great to look at. It's witty, funny, interesting, clever and it has a simple clear story. The animation is great art. The acting is excellent.
It is also boring for stretches and totally predictable. (I'm not sure predictable is bad in a children's movie.)
I have one serious issue. (Note: there's a spoiler here. If you haven't predicted the ending, and you don't want to know it, don't read any further.)
The putative moral is immoral.
Too often movies preach... If you are competitive you are without friends. And... It is good to lose even when you have really won. (Remember The Bee Season?)
The hero car goes to the end of the race, stops just before the end, and then lets another car -- the bad guy car -- win, while the hero goes to help a third car (the famous #1 car that was spun out by the cheating bad guy car) retain his dignity by finishing the race. (Note the his and not its.)
In real life (and animated, anthropomorphic cars may not be real life), when you can win a race and you do not, on purpose, that is called throwing the race. It is blatantly immoral and arguably illegal. Being in a competition is agreeing to a kind of contract: that you will compete to the best of your ability. Throwing a race (on which -- believe it or not -- people may have even bet money) is much more likely to get you sued, thrown out of whatever competitive league you are in, and vilified, than honored.
Being overly competitive to the extent of cheating is bad; to not have friends is bad; and winning something unimportant when you can do something important -- like saving the life of a spectator -- is bad. Quite frankly, however, losing is also bad -- both for you and for people who have supported you.
Being appropriately competitive, playing fair, and having friends are all good things. The real moral should be to learn to have friends and still compete fully and fairly; to fight against cheaters; and when it happens that you lose, to lose gracefully. And NOT to lose on purpose.