Cars 2

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.

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7 Responses to “Cars 2”

  1. I expected this to be bad. It wasn’t. It looked amazing, and the story was pretty good. Over all, I had a good time.

  2. It was bound to happen, but it is a little sad that it’s happening so soon. Cars 2 may not be all that bad, but I hear it’s the first Pixar film that’s not spectacular. I also didn’t feel Cars really deserved a sequel (my favorite Pixar movies is and will always be Ratatouille) but I actually thought taking the franchise and expanding it, making it an international affair would be really good (apparently it wasn’t). I’m counting on it to look amazing, but I don’t know if I’ll like it since Mater’s now the main character and I kinda don’t like him.

  3. I liked this sequel so much more than the original Cars. I loved Mater and his cluelessness. I found the plot clever. I would have preferred a less environmentally indoctrinary evil plot since I think it very sinister to use a children’s animated film to mould minds to poltical correctness in a 1984 way.

    • You’re not the first person to tell me they preferred Cars 2 to 1, although it’s definitely the minority opinion. I liked Cars 2, but a bit less than the original Cars. However, I think I liked Brave less than all of them.

  4. It’s confusing, I know, but see if this makes things any clearer. Suppose YOU were a car whose model had always been made fun of because … oh, say you came from a screwy country like Yugoslavia or Ralph Nader didn’t like you or you were supposed to appeal to people who didn’t have much money to spend on cars and the gas to go in them. You were supposed to be ECONOMICAL, of all the dopey ideas! What would you do? Well, naturally, you’d develop a resentment against million-dollar machines like Ferraris and Aston Martins and one-of-a-kind racers like Lightning McQueen; and the way you’d get revenge on them would be … umm, let’s see. Sure. You’d discredit the use of fuel additives that came from things other than oil! What could make more sense than that? And of course the British secret service, being as on top of things as they always are, would put their top agents to work to put an end your mischief. And with a little bit of luck that came out of getting Tow Mater involved, that’s exactly what they’d bring about. So, happily, all the Ferraris and Aston Martins and eight thousand Nascars could keep going around the racing loops of Japan and Europe and the U.S. forever — using hybrid fuel, of course, whenever and wherever they darn well felt like it — and thumb their collective noses at the Yugos and Corvairs and the rest of those dumpy poor-people’s excuses for transportation.

    • I completely understand what you’re saying. The world of Cars 2 is painted in broad strokes and the narrative is very muddled. It never helps clarity when characters you think are supposed to be good throughout the entire film turn out to be bad and pushing a hidden agenda at the end. But I’d say it was actually more unpredictable that they portrayed the affordable cars as evil instead of the other way around.

      Does it help that what made the villains “bad” were that they were famous failed lemons and not just the fact that they were affordable cars? It’s understandable that they’d want to discredit the other side’s biofuel, but using a weapon disguised as a television camera to ignite the Allinol fuel is a leap that went beyond what most people would find acceptable. Simply going on television and exposing the flaw in a public forum would have been enough.

      Incidentally Pixar chose car companies that no longer exist to represent the criminals. I lifted this verbatim off of Wikipedia: “the villainous character Professor Z is a Zündapp Janus. This was done so to avoid any legal battles with companies angry at their products being portrayed as evil.”

      I know it wasn’t your intention, but your detailed analysis actually gave me a deeper appreciation of this film.

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