Title: Cars 2 (aka Disney-Pixar’s Cars 2)
Release Date: June 24, 2011
Pros: Looks amazing, a lot of new characters (cars, boats and planes), a lot of great voice acting and plenty of action.
Cons: Story is a bit basic and missing that certain Pixar sweetness we’ve come to expect and several scenes of violence that are a bit much for young viewers.
Overall Score: One thumb up, one thumb sideways; 85/100; B; * * * 1/2 out of five.
After watching Cars 2 a couple nights ago, I asked my four-year-old son what he thought to of the movie. Being a big fan of the fist film, I expected him to be all excited and gushing. Instead, he was reserved and a little upset. His response: “There was too much mean.”
Disney-Pixar has certainly perfected the art of computer animation, especially when it comes to making otherwise inanimate and non-living objects talk, but some of the sweetness and storytelling fell to the side with this very Mater-centric movie.
Behind the Wheel Again
Most of the characters and voice talent return for the sequel to the 2006 animated film, Cars, and are joined by enough new vehicles and voices to likely quadruple the cast.
The story takes place several years after the original Cars (2006), with Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) having just finished his latest Piston Cup win. McQueen has established himself pretty well in radiator Springs, Sally (Bonnie Hunt) has opened her restaurant and the town seems pretty happy. Especially Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). Of course, that means there’s no possible way they can stay in town.
Team McQueen, as they are now called, fly across the globe to compete in three international races, all meant to help promote the latest alternative fuel, Allinol (as in “all-in-all”) created by Sir Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard). That pits McQueen against the enormous ego of Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro), a race car that cannot handle dirt.
Mater is, naturally, out of sorts and after a comedy of errors, gets mistakenly tossed into the middle of international espionage. He parts with Team McQueen to help super smooth spy cars Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) as they uncover a dastardly plot of gangster cars to muck with the race.
The dual stories – McQueen’s races and Mater’s mysteries – eventually come back together but most of the movie focuses on Mater and his adventures.
Under the Bumper
There was certainly a lot of time and talent making this movie look amazing. The cars are shinier, the settings are beautiful and each city is wonderfully rendered. Even the 3D is used pretty well with only a couple moments of purposeful cork-in-your-face moments.
Likewise, the voice cast was great, bringing back a lot of the character they had imparted into the first film along with many, many appropriate new voices including (besides those already mentioned) Joe Mantegna, Stanley Townsend, Vanessa Redgrave and even Bruce Campbell. They even involved a few more large vehicles including boats and airplanes.
Unfortunately, all of these new elements mixed together make for some great gags but not a very solid story.
Sending the Cars characters is very Herbie, and tossing Mater into a spy spoof of sorts does play on some obvious contrasts but it ultimately proves too much for Disney-Pixar to handle. McQueen takes a back seat to Mater pretty much throughout, with Mater being the butt of all jokes, the instigator (insti-Mator?) of every situation and taking every pun a bit too far.
As for the “mean” part my son speaks of, there was a lot of violence in this movie, which was quite a bit surprising considering how sweet Pixar can be with its movies (including Cars). The spy cars are constantly shooting each other, launching big-time explosives and even partaking in some unsavory behavior. In one scene a car is actually tortured and blown up.
Also, much of the movie’s jokes take place at the expense of Mater who which they sadly try to address in a Dumbo-esque dream sequence (when Mater’s drugged by bad guys). Sure, they try to remedy it by the end of the film but, considering how much bashing he’s taken, it doesn’t quite make up for it.
Toy Story: Hawaiian Vacation
Before the movie you will be treated to a short animated film featuring the Toy Story crew in their new home. Bonnie, the little girl who inherits the toys at the end of Toy Story 3, is leaving for a family vacation to Hawaii and Barbi and Ken try to stow along. They miss the boat so the rest of the Toy story crew try to give the dolls the vacation they missed.
In a short time they manage to give each character a few moments of appropriate screen time – expert use of montages – while still working in a cute little Barbi and Ken story. This is certainly worth seeing.
Drive In or Drive Away?
There was certainly a lot of action and silly spoofery going on in Cars 2 – with names and some sight gags – which older audiences will enjoy.
As for kids, most won’t get much of that humor but they will likely enjoy the overdoses of Mater-centric gags. Unfortunately it’s laced with a lot of violence that is a bit much for younger or more sensitive kids. Older kids who can handle the violence will certainly like what they see. After all, it is an action-packed movie starring their favorite Cars, spies and explosions.
(Oh, and if you if you ask my son about the movie now, he does recount it a bit more favorably but doesn’t like to talk about cars being mean to other cars.)