A 'Cars' test drive

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We’ve seen “Cars,” and we’re impressed. At least with the exterior. The latest Pixar film is the first one to feel like a warmed-over concept; “Doc Hollywood” covered much of the same ground about a decade ago, and “Cars” doesn’t have anyone with the heartfelt, winning personality that Michael J. Fox brought to the earlier film.

That being said, the animation was literally breathtaking. Pixar continues to move toward completely lifelike images, and “Cars” showed a unique blend of realism and cartoon that was captivating to watch. If you like older cars, you’ll love how director John Lasseter and team have transformed the Southwestern mesa into tributes to the hoods and ornaments of many a long-lost car. My favorite? Cadillac Ranch remade as a series of short mountains.

The movie ran a little long (the middle hour was too much of Lasseter reliving his childhood days of driving along Route 66) and has too many characters to keep track of, but it starts and ends with a bang. For fans of Car Talk’s Tom and Ray, they have fairly large supporting roles as the sponsors of the movie’s protagonist, Lightning McQueen. We totally bought them as bumper-lotion salescars.

“Cars” is a “message movie,” a message telegraphed about 100 miles out, but for kids and car aficionados, it’s a knockout.

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