Review: Cars 2
PLOT: Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is challenged by his arch-nemesis, Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro); an arrogant F1 racer, to participate in the Grand Prix. With Mater (Larry The Cable Guy) in tow, McQueen heads to Tokyo. Soon, Mater finds himself tangled up with two British spies, Finn McMissile (Michael Caine), and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) on the trail of a monocle -wearing supervillian- Professor Z (Thomas Kretschmann), bent on sabotaging the Grand Prix, and destroying McQueen.
REVIEW: CARS 2 is yet another winner from Pixar...obviously. Is anyone even the least bit surprised at this point? Since TOY STORY back in 1995, the company has proven itself to be virtually incapable of making a bad film. However, like it's predecessor, CARS 2 is undeniably one of the lesser Pixar entries, but still pretty damn good in it's own right.
It doesn't help that CARS 2 follows the one-two-three punch of WALL-E, UP, and TOY STORY 3, each of which are among the finest family films ever made. By comparison, CARS 2 is a fun ride, but lacks the emotional wallop each of those films possessed. It's first and foremost a romp, with the only objective here being to entertain, which it does. In a way, you could call it Pixar's variation on a summer action flick, with it's spy plot giving them the change to wreak carnage on a scale never before seen in one of their productions.
One thing that has to be said; CARS 2 is radically different from the first film. That was a gentle tale of a superstar being humbled by the quaintness of small-town life, being almost Capra-esque at times (and owing more than a little to the Michael J. Fox vehicle, DOC HOLLYWOOD). CARS 2 is more like a sixties Bond flick (complete with a groovy retro score by Michael Giacchino, replacing the first film's Randy Newman).
Surprisingly, Lightning McQueen takes a backseat in this installment, with Larry The Cable Guy's Mater being the star. In fact, I'd wager that Caine and Mortimer's super-spy characters get more screen-time than McQueen, but that's not such a bad thing, with Caine in particular, obviously having a ball voicing the James Bond-style Aston Martin. As for Mr. Cable Guy, I'd have to say that's my biggest issue with the film, as I didn't really find him funny in the first film, and I feel the same here. However, the kids I saw this with were practically rolling in the aisles every-time Mater was on-screen, so what do I know? He does have one really funny scene where he tries to figure out a Japanese toilet, before interrupting a TRUE LIES style shootout (featuring none other than Bruce Campbell voicing the good guy!).
Other than Caine, I probably got the most enjoyment out of John Turturro, hamming it up big time as McQueen's arrogant Formula 1 nemesis, complete with a gloriously over the top Italian accent. Also nifty were two vocal cameos by Franco Nero (DJANGO!) and Vanessa Redgrave (doing almost her entire role in Italian!).
Like the first film, CARS 2 is a feast for the eyes, with the Pixar, CARS-centric take on Tokyo being particularly slick (also loved their take on cheesy Japanese advertising). The only downside was the 3D which, even in IMAX, drastically reduced the brightness of the colorful images, which is a shame. Chalk this up as yet another 3D film that should be seen in 2D if possible (although Digital Projection is a must).
Unlike most Pixar films, there's no big lesson to be learned here, other than to value friendship of course, with most of the 110 minute running time being focused on massive action scenes. Some of the set-pieces, such as McMissile's opening raid on the gloriously Bond villain-like Professor Z, are incredibly dynamic and fun to watch. I also got a big kick out of all the villains being notoriously awful cars, such as Pacers, Yugos and Gremlins. Obviously the gang at Pixar know their lemons.
In the end, CARS 2 is not quite up to the standard of the majority of Pixar films, but that said, mediocre Pixar is still way better than what any other animation studios are doing. On it's own merits, CARS 2 is a damn fun film, and terrific summer entertainment the kiddies will likely want to see again and again. As for the older Pixar fans, you'll have a great time, but just taper your expectations a tad.
|Extra Tidbit:||The opening TOY STORY short is great.|