My feelings toward Pixar are the sort of sick, passive aggressive ones that I might shamefully have toward a friend—a friend who's incredibly attractive, talented, and popular; who does everything better than me; who I love to spend time with and want to succeed. But—deep down and just a little—I also want them to fall on their face, just once, just so they're not so goddamn perfect.

In other words, I keep waiting for Pixar to mess up.

Okay, I don't really want them to mess up. But logically, they have to—no one's that perfect, right? Well, apparently, Pixar is—their latest, Cars, continues a streak of fairly amazing projects that includes the Toy Story films, A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles.

Cars' greatness isn't due to its story, which is pretty rote: A hotshot racecar, Lightning McQueen (voiced, with boyish exuberance, by Owen Wilson), gets stranded in the podunk town of Radiator Springs, and, after some initial whining, learns Important Life Lessons. No, Cars' success is thanks to its vibrant, jovial personality; the film's visceral sense of fun, heart, and adrenaline starts in the first scene and never quiets down. Plus, the film's gorgeous—with gleaming, energetic cars driving through fantastic environments (the desert outside Radiator Springs, for example, has monumental rock formations shaped like the tailfins of a late-'50s Cadillac). Thanks to Pixar's melding of great animation and inspired casting, the characters here are also some of their best: There's Doc Hudson, a world-weary Hudson Hornet voiced by Paul Newman; a slick Porsche 911 brought to life by Bonnie Hunt's dry delivery; and Mater, an ignorant, redneck, but still-likeable tow truck, who's voiced, unfortunately, by the ignorant, redneck, and not-very-likeable Larry the Cable Guy.

Yeah, if we're going to quibble, Cars' staid story keeps it from possessing the freshness of Toy Story or the depth of The Incredibles—but the film delivers enough earnest character and giddy thrills that it's kind of pointless to quibble at all. Still—and as much as I love Pixar—doesn't anybody else find it a tiny bit creepy that they still haven't messed up?