June 9, 2006 -- The Hollywood buzz was "Watch out for 'Cars'!" And this time, the buzz was right.
All of Hollywood will be watching -- and not through the rear view mirrors of their Beemers and Bentleys, but through the front window. This is a great animated feature, and a lot of fun.
You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll get a ticket for doing 70 in a 45-mile-an-hour zone. It's that kind of a movie, and the real feel of the racing footage is absolutely spectacular. Director John Lasseter, who also did "Toy Story," is a CGI genius.
Owen Wilson is Lightning McQueen, a young hot rod on a cross-country trek to race in the next Piston Cup Championship. But Lightning isn't so bright, and he gets lost in Radiator Springs, a sleepy tourist town that's stuck in the past, where all the inhabitants are autos, including Paul Newman, who plays a 1951 Hudson Hornet.
Newman is Radiator Springs' big wheel as well as the former Piston Cup legend, and when Wilson shows him what he can do on a race course, we get to see what state-of-the-art CGI can do.
But when Wilson and Bonnie Hunt, the Porsche who loves him, go out for a spin, it's a breathtaking jaunt, and "Cars" becomes summertime genius. These cars are doing what people use to do: They go for a drive.
I'd call it literature except I'm afraid it would scare you away. The film is an elegy on the America that Lasseter, music composer Randy Newman -- and even this critic -- grew up in, and have watched disappear.
I think Paul Newman should be nominated for an Oscar. The last star in an animated feature I felt this way about was Robin Williams in "Aladdin."
Newman is also on the record as saying that he threw out his last tuxedo 20 years ago, and hasn't gone to a black-tie event since. But I wonder if getting Oscar nominated for playing a vintage Hudson Hornet would get him back. Grade: A-
'Prairie' Not So Homey
There is a great movie in "A Prairie Home Companion," which is based on Garrison Keillor's long-running radio show. Meryl Streep gives an amazing performance as a country singer. If she'd played June Carter Cash last year, she might have won the Oscar. But as for "Prairie Home Companion," there's a reason they don't make movies of radio shows. There's nothing to look at. Grade: B-
As for "The Omen," it's the least horrible horror movie I've ever seen. No gore, no death-defying screams and not too many scares either. It is a remake of the 1976 original, and the big news is Liev Schreiber, very good actor, is starring in the Gregory Peck role.
Liev Schreiber's mother is telling everyone she knows. Grade: C+