As a filmmaker, I’m sad to say I’ve yet to see a “great” racing movie. The film snob in me and the racing nerd in me simply have too high of standards.
Grand Prix is the highest, but definitely doesn’t go on my list of best films ever. It satisfies the racing nerd in me (and the vintage racing nerd, oh lord the old cars and tracks make me giddy), but the typical cheese of 60′s Hollywood is all over it. If anything, it makes for a fascinating and blunt commentary of the racing of the time: political, entertaining and above all: deathly dangerous. I recommend it for those who long for the days of old and love racing.
Cars is probably my 2nd least favorite of the Pixar films (which I’m sure surprises some of my friends), but that’s like saying it’s the 2nd worst dish at a 5 star restaraunt. It’s solid, fun and endearing and doesn’t get too loose and wild with the realism of the racing while maintaining the cartoony feel of it. My biggest problem was that it still felt like a giant commercial ploy for toys. What’s interesting is when I recently watched Cars 2, the original Cars happened to be on TV the very next night. The differences in tone and quality of the color palette were astonishing. It made me feel much more lenient towards Cars (especially in terms of blatant commercialism). I think it goes without saying Cars 2 is now my least favorite Pixar film.
Days of Thunder is okay, though I must admit it’s been a while since I’ve watched it as a whole. Going back and seeing scenes kind of simply reaffirms my suspicions that it’s a bit over the top at times, but pretty entertaining in the end. What really is interesting is that they actually shot at the tracks the Winston Cup (back when it WAS the Winston Cup) went to without skimping by fudging the shots. When the subtitle says it’s Bristol, you see those cars at Bristol. Kudos on them for that. But, the aggressiveness, contact and bump-&-grind is just too much to take seriously. Fun for some mindless entertainment, but you gotta work hard at times to turn off the “that doesn’t happen in real racing!” part of your brain.
Talledega Nights – It’s a Will Ferrel comedy so racing realism doesn’t even enter the equation. As far as his movies go, it’s not his best. Felt like he was simply going through the motions of what people expect from him anymore. Overall pretty meh, but gets a few laughs.
Driven – If it helps you understand, I keep two lists: one with all the films that get my snobby film nerd thumbs up and one with those that are so awful that I consider them the worst of all time and have pretty much nothing redeemable about them. It takes a pretty bad one to go on the latter. My worst list has maybe half a dozen. Driven is on it. If you watch this movie and enjoy it, I’m going to send you a punch in the face. By snail mail. Twice.
I have yet to see LeMans. Senna was great, but it’s a documentary, so doesn’t go in the same category as fictional narrative to me.