June 27, 2011

Movie Review: Cars 2

In 2006 Pixar released a new beast upon the world. That beast was called Cars and while it is not the highest grossing Pixar release (it still topped $244 million in the US alone) it did prove to be the biggest generator of revenue from ancillary products. Simply put, this movie sold the most toys and other memorabilia than any other Pixar release. This fact alone had to go a long way towards a sequel being green lit. At the same time, and I cannot back this up by more than my gut feeling, I can't help but see this as something of a cash grab, a  movie made to generate money more than any artistic merit.



I understand that this is a business and these companies need to make money keep themselves afloat, but it is not like Pixar hasn't been successful enough that they are in any way wanting for cash. I have been spoiled with a series of films that deliver the goods. Films that transcend mere children's entertainment, sure the kids love them, but they also provide more, emotion, intelligence, action, something that makes me want to keep coming back time and time again. They have made many films that don't pander to the youngsters. I daresay there is something magical about them that reminds me of the golden age of Disney animation, timeless films that can entertain just about anyone.

Well, that brings me to Cars 2. Simply put, I must consider this a disappointment. It is not that I do not think they put a lot of effort into making the film, that would just be wrong and shortsighted. It just feels like somewhere along the line, in an effort to keep it fresh and differentiate from the first film, they forgot to give it any real heart. They plotted it all out and neglected to inject a reason to care.


Cars 2 tells the story of how Mater became an international spy. Lightning McQueen accepts a challenge to enter a World Grand Prix and brings Mater along with him. The race series is sponsored by the Richard Branson-esque Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard) who has developed an alternative to oil based fuel. Of course, there is more than meets the eye Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) is mistaken by the James Bondian Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and his partner Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) for an American agent.

Laughs and action ensue as the case of mistaken identity gets carried on far too long as we are thrust windshield deep into international intrigue. There is a group of bad guys intent on making the new fuel source look bad and will stop at nothing to make that happen. Of course the good guys win in the end and Mater is right in the middle of things.


I just really didn't care for the movie. The characters were not all that interesting and Mater certainly isn't a strong enough character to be the main protagonist like he is here. On top of that, the message seems to come down to "be yourself no matter who that may hurt, it's their problem." Nothing was all that exciting, aside from a few amused smiles there were really no laughs to be had.

Credit should be given for them not just rehashing the first film. It is true that prior to Cars 2 my least favorite Pixar film was Cars, but that movie still had some charm with its lovesong to the open road and Route 66. This time it is a riff on the Bond formula mixed with the mistaken-identity comedy. Nothing particularly original, but at least not a rehash.

Now, I may not be particularly high on the movie, but there is one thing that should be made clear. The quality of animation is second to none. Pixar never lets down in this department, so often they seem to be so far ahead of the curve that it isn't even funny.

I cannot fully recommend the movie, but the kids will probably enjoy it and the animation is something to behold on the big screen. You could do far worse.

Not Really Recommended.


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