Review of Automotive-Themed Movies and BooksJanuary 16, 2024
From family-friendly comedies to high-speed dramas, these movies take us for an exciting ride. From iconic Detroit muscle cars to huge thundering trucks, these films celebrate our love of cars.
The first big hit from animation wizards Pixar, Cars is a cheerful celebration of lovable cars with anthropomorphic personalities. Owen Wilson stars as zappy young race car Lightning McQueen.
Herbie Fully Loaded
The lovable bug that wowed audiences in the ’60s rides again in this 2005 film. The filmmakers put Herbie through his paces on a road to becoming a NASCAR race car after he’s saved from the junkyard by Maggie Peyton, daughter of a racing legend.
The movie benefits from real stunt work and driving action and a strong cast led by Lindsay Lohan. Breckin Meyer and Justin Long are also in the picture.
One of the best aspects of Herbie Fully Loaded is the characterization of Trip Murphy, a egotistical race car driver who gets slapped in the face by Herbie and Maggie during a street race. Dillon’s performance doesn’t feel as over the top as some of the earlier Herbie bad guys.
Whether they’re fire engines, snow plows, or guitar cars, kids love all kinds of vehicles. This book identifies all of them, while also providing a charming visual treat.
Cars may not quite live up to Pixar’s greatest hits like Toy Story, but it is an entertaining movie with pretty graphics and a solid cast of characters. Owen Wilson voices the snappy, zappy young race car Lightning McQueen in this ode to Americana and small-town America that is economically and culturally bypassed by soulless interstate highways.
Its simple elegy for a once-bustling Route 66 town and the late Paul Newman’s final film role lend it a bittersweet undercurrent. The movie also sends a message about selflessness and friendship that is more important than ever in our image-conscious world.
As a high-octane cult favorite, Drive is a movie that focuses on the thrills of car chases in more meaningful ways than your average Hollywood blockbuster. The film’s protagonist, known only as “The Driver,” doesn’t have a name or backstory, which emphasizes his enigmatic nature and his struggle to find identity. His iconic scorpion jacket also hints at his ruthless side, as it symbolizes the duality that he is trying to reconcile within himself.
While not a movie that will appeal to car enthusiasts in the same way as the above titles, Martin Scorsese’s Taxi is nevertheless significant because it delves into how cars represent freedom, control, and escape.
A slam-bang action movie with plenty of symbolism, Richard Sarafian’s 1971 film Vanishing Point is both a hippie elegy and an anti-authoritarian thriller. It stars Barry Newman as Kowalski, a car delivery guy who bets he can drive a pristine car from Denver to San Francisco before the cops catch up to him.
As regular flashbacks fill in the details of his life, it becomes clear that he is both valiant and tragic, a man who has suffered much. And although he encounters some beautiful women, including the nude motorcycle rider Gilda Tester (what was considered edgy in 1971), he is not really interested in free love.
The Italian Job
The Italian Job, a remake of the 1969 film, is by turns brisk and entertaining. Its bang up cast includes Mark Wahlberg, Ed Norton, Mos Def, Jason Statham and Charlize Theron.
The movie is anchored by Michael Caine’s charismatic performance as the retired thief Charlie Croker. His plan: create a traffic jam in Turin, steal a shipment of gold bars and escape in a fleet of Mini Coopers. The result is an iconic car chase sequence that still looks impressive today. Families can talk about how women are portrayed and treated in the movie, as well as how much of the violence is realistic.
For fans of the movie or books, this 240 page hardcover tome of knowledge is a must-have. James Mottram and David S Cohen do a fantastic job of covering all five Die Hard movies, as well as the book they were based on.
The movie’s appeal stems from watching Bruce Willis, barefoot and stripped down to his t-shirt, work himself into precarious jams that he, through cleverness and physical bravado, is able to get out of. He matches wits with Hans Gruber, who is no pushover.
Die Hard is superficially like a zillion other action films, but it was made with more care and more cleverness.