Of all the Pixar films crying out for a sequel, Cars would have been my last choice. I enjoyed the movie back in 2006, but it has always been my least favorite. Cars 2 is not even up to the standard of the original, but it still manages to entertain. After winning the Piston Cup for the 4th time, racecar Lightning McQueen and his best friend, tow truck Mater, head to Tokyo to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix to determine the world’s fastest car. In the beginning, the narrative is briefly centered on Lightning McQueen and the racing championship. But the action soon shifts to Mater who becomes the main protagonist concerning his accidental involvement in an international espionage subplot.
James Bond-like story, complete with mistaken identities, is a confusingly plotted spy thriller packed to the rafters with details. It’s incredibly convoluted and I struggled to follow the needlessly complicated storyline. At one point we learn that evil scientist Professor Zündapp uses an electromagnetic pulse to ignite a renewable fuel called Allinol in the racecars so that they explode. I barely understood the concept, so I doubt any child will makes sense of it. It’s really not that important, but the technical jargon highlights the chief problem: where’s the fun? Utterly devoid of character development and emotion, frenetic events have become the focus here. The 113 minute length is overlong and drags in parts. A completely fresh group of personalities including Finn McMissile, Holley Shiftwell and Miles Axlerod join the supporting cast. And while they’re serviceable characters, I couldn’t help but think all the new vehicles were introduced to sell additional merchandise.
The computer graphics are of course superb, particularly the scenes upon arriving in Tokyo. In fact it’s a stunningly gorgeous technological marvel. One imaginative episode has Mater confused by the mechanical complexity of a bathroom stall. We could have used more creative scenes like that. The synergy between Mater and Lightning McQueen is still intact and that’s what that captures the audience. Larry the Cable Guy is amiable in a way that the comedian could never be in a live action picture. His chemistry with Owen Wilson as his buddy is genuine. Their friendly dynamic remains sweet. I will mention, however, that the plot’s reliance on Mater’s cluelessness does get a little preposterous at times. He’s never been the brightest bulb, but here the light seems to have gone out. Not a disaster by any means, but this is the first Pixar film that feels a bit labored. If you can appreciate the terrific animation and chase sequences, you’ll be entertained.