I have mixed feelings about Cars. I've found that a certain charm still lingers days after, and goodness knows everything looks terrific. On the other hand, the script is weak, very cliched and formulaic. I wasn't as enamored with Finding Nemo as many other people are (I made the mistake of watching Studio Ghibli's Whisper of the Heart on the same day I watched Nemo), but I don't remember that movie relying so heavily on sitcom routines and '80s movies like Doc Hollywood.
On a deeper level, Cars serves as a metaphor for the Pixar studio. The film was made while the studio was ending their contract with Disney, and wondering what direction they should take. Could they break away, plow their own independent path, and cut a distribution deal with one of the other major studios? Or should they stay with Disney, embrace the corporate behemoth with all its status and money and opportunity.
So we can forgive Cars for offering an ending that's a bit of a copout. It wants to thread the needle, to have it both ways. I don't know if that's possible, and I'm unsure just how much freedom Pixar had in choosing to walk down the aisle with Disney (the other studios balked at a deal). But Lasseter and his crew have their optimistic hopes, and they've made their choice.
To his own credit, Lasseter received the thumbs-up from Miyazaki. Is there any other person, aside from family, whose opinion matters more to him? Likely not.
(Note: I wrote these comments on Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, a great little movie blog that highlighted Conversations on Ghibli in a recent post. So I decided to reprint my Cars thoughts here. Cough, shameless padding, cough. Oh, and for the record, don't change the name!)