REVIEW – “Cars on the Road”

Cars has always had a weird history among film/Pixar fans – on the one-hand, it’s without a doubt one of their most successful franchises financially. The Cars toys sell more than any other form of merchandise that Pixar owns – but on the flipside to that, this causes a lot of fans of traditional Pixar to look down on the franchise as simply a cash-cow to fund the more unique projects like Soul or Inside Out. I, myself, lie somewhere in the middle with the franchise as I think there’s validity to the notion that the Cars content isn’t quite as nuanced or imaginative as other Pixar properties. Hell, Cars 2 is still my lowest rated film from Pixar to-date. But with that being said, I think the first Cars film is genuinely a great film and the creatives at Pixar have done some nice shorts with the characters over the years to keep me invested in the characters.

With Disney+ going full steam-ahead with their content output and them being very vocal of Pixar’s upcoming series’ being a key selling point for their platform, it was inevitable that we’d get some form of new Cars content on the service – Cars on the Road is a nine-episode series of shorts that follow Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and his best pal Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) as they journey east of Radiator Springs on a cross-country road-trip to meet-up with Mater’s sister at her wedding. Of course, things don’t go according to plan and the characters get into some detours along the way – how else would there be a show?

If I had to sum up Cars on the Road in one word, it would be the same word I’d use to describe the franchise as a whole – inoffensive. While I think Cars on the Road will certainly add fuel to the argument of Cars being one of the weaker franchises in Pixar’s catalog due to its simplistic storytelling and little-to-no emotional depth in the story, I still think it services as a decent addition to the cannon that is certainly designed for younger viewers. This isn’t to excuse any form of lazy storytelling, because that’s definitely present here and I think you could’ve done more with the nine-episode structure, but it simply feels like this was targeted to be a fun-romp for kids to put on after school one day. So how critical can I really be?

All nine-episodes combined amount to little over an hour of content, which is only about half an hour less than what most Pixar films average – and I’m debating about whether or not this format was a good thing. On the one hand, I think the series has a deeply thin narrative that did not need to be a film whatsoever. On the other hand, I think the film format would’ve forced the creatives to make it a little more emotional by adding depth to Mater’s relationship with not only his sister but his family as a whole. We’ve seen parts of the world through the Cars franchise before, but this would’ve been a great opportunity to get personal when outside of Radiator Springs.

Most of the detours on the way to the wedding are fine enough, with some certainly more amusing than others. Just as most of these Pixar short series go, all run under ten-minutes, so even for the lesser-episodes it feels like a breeze to get through them. So while the writing isn’t super emotional nor provides much development for the characters and I can’t imagine adults will takeaway a lot from it – it seems the Cars franchise is continually doing what it does best, which is catering to younger audiences. And I have a really hard time seeing this not deeply entertaining them.


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