Cars 2 ** ½
Directed by: John Lasseter.
Written by: Ben Queen & John Lasseter & Brad Lewis & Dan Fogelman.
Starring: Larry the Cable Guy (Mater), Owen Wilson (Lightning McQueen), Michael Caine (Finn McMissile), Emily Mortimer (Holley Shiftwell), Eddie Izzard (Sir Miles Axlerod), John Turturro (Francesco Bernoulli), Joe Mantegna (Grem), Thomas Kretschmann (Professor Z), Bonnie Hunt (Sally), Tony Shalhoub (Luigi), Jeff Garlin (Otis).
One of the reasons I don’t think Cars 2 works very well, is because it switches focus off of Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), the big headed, race car who had to learn to slow down and enjoy life in the first film, to his comic relief sidekick, Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). Mater was, without a doubt, the most popular character in the first film, but he was a supporting character – and that’s where he belongs. He is there to play the “best friend”, not the leading man. Here, his character is asked to carry the movie, and it simply doesn’t work.
The story follows McQueen as he is challenged to take part in the first ever World Grand Prix – a series of three races, where all types of race cars will compete. What that means is the McQueen’s biggest competition will be the F-1 car Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro), who can go faster than McQueen, a Nascar, but not for as long. The first race is to take place in Japan, and McQueen decides to bring his best friend Mater along with him. But Mater being Mater, turns out to be an embarrassment to McQueen, who snaps at him, and makes Mater sulk away. But little does Mater know that he has becoming an unwilling dupe in a complex spy game – with Finn McMissle (Michael Caine) and Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) of British Intelligence on one side, and a nefarious group of “lemons” on the other side. It is this plot that doesn’t work, and takes up the vast majority of the running time of Cars 2.
This being a Pixar movie, there are things to praise about it. The animation is still top notch (but, having seen the film in 3-D, I have to say there is little to no reason to shell out the extra money to see it in that format). The background of Cars 2 is filled with excellent, visual touches and jokes – I did particularly love all the anime references when the movie was in Japan.
It’s just, to me, Cars 2 is everything that Pixar movies are not. I see no reason why kids – especially little boys – will not love this movie. This is the type of fast paced, colorful, action packed movie that kids will simply love. And more power to them. But to me, Pixar has always succeeded in making movies that work on level for kids – the action, adventure, comic level – and another for adults, where more serious issues of love, loss and aging are brought up. This seemed like a perfect marriage – because kids got what they wanted to, and adults still got to see one of the very best films of the year right along side them. So, if you have kids, by all means, take them to see Cars 2, they’ll love. But for the first time ever for a Pixar movie, I can honestly say that if you don’t have kids, there really is no point in seeing the movie.