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Cars 2 Review

cars-2-pixar-movie
RATING:
(2 STARS)

I know I’m not the first disappointed reviewer to make this statement, but I have no choice: With Cars 2, Pixar has finally made a stinker. I take no joy out of writing these words. I, like many, counted on the beloved animation studio to churn out an exceptional film every year. But my first reaction to the idea of sequel to their 2006 hit, Cars, was, “Really?” Still, I never thought the film would be such a drag. It lacks any compelling storyline and characters. And it just reeks of something that exists only to make money and sell toys. A part of me thought critics were waiting for this with their knives sharpened and that it probably wasn’t as bad as its RT score indicated. No, it’s that bad. Perhaps worse.

Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is on top of the world. He’s the fastest race car in the world, cars everywhere look up to him, and his best friend Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy) has his back no matter what. When Mater gets him involved in the first ever World Grand Prix, he decides to give his friend the trip of a lifetime. However, after Mater embarrasses him in front of his chief rival, Francesco Bernoulli (voice of John Turturro), the two part, with Lighting continuing on the Prix, and Mater heading back to Radiator Springs. On his way home, though, the tow truck gets mistaken for an American spy, and two British agents—Finn McMissile (voice of Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (voice of Emily Mortimer)—give him a mission critical to protecting the cars on the Prix, who seem to be dropping like flies.

There are few animated characters more irritating than the Larry the Cable Guy-voiced tow truck, so let’s make him the focus of his own James Bond-style movie. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Yeah, it’s a mess, and his very prominent portion of the plot makes no sense. It’s all dependent on very deliberate lines of dialogue, as well as some clumsy oversight by two world-class spies. And even worse, it’s way too complicated. There are aspects of the plot that relate to lemons (the broken cars, not the popular citrus fruit), and a potentially dangerous form of alternative energy. I’m not sure why John Lasseter thought this was a good idea for a kids movie, but I do find it hilariously ironic that the sequel to a film about how great the simple things in life are would be so damn complicated.

Another point of contention about the film is that we’re never properly introduced (or reintroduced, I guess) to this world. Are there any people? I don’t think so, but I couldn’t say for sure. What exactly are the cars capable of? It seems to me they have superpowers that pop up only when the plot finds itself painted into a corner. And what exactly do these cars do? What is their purpose? Why do they race? None of this is every shown to us—something no other Pixar film forgets about. Think about Monsters Inc. We know how things work and why the characters do what they do. Here, everything is a device to propel this ridiculous spy stuff. It’s hard to become invested when we’re being manipulated in such an overt way.

The animation is fine, of course. And the voice work is on par with the original. I certainly could do without Larry the Cable Guy—in everything, not just this. But whatever, it’s not his voice that’s the problem, just the part he plays. That’s unfortunately where the praise ends, though. There’s little else to even say about the film. It’s just an uninspired effort by any standard—a film without a purpose. It appears as if sequels are the new thing with Pixar, and I’m fine if that means more films like Toy Story 3. But another whiff like this will make me seriously question what’s going on over there. Harsh words, perhaps, but 15 years of greatness earns you a reputation, for better or worse, and Cars 2 doesn’t even come close to living up to that Pixar standard.

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