Should I Watch..? Cars 2
What's the big deal?
Cars 2 is a CG animated action comedy film released in 2011 and is Pixar's sequel to their 2006 film Cars. Directed once again by John Lasseter, the film's voice cast includes Owen Wilson, Larry The Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Eddie Izzard, Emily Mortimer and John Turturro. The film follows racing car Lightning McQueen and his best friend Mater across the world competing in the inaugural World Grand Prix before Mater becomes mixed up in a world of shadowy espionage. Although the film's global takings topped those of earlier Pixar films, the film was released to a mostly negative reception from critics - breaking the studio's streak of positive reviews that stretched back to 1995. The film is widely considered to be Pixar's worst effort so far, with critics citing the film's poor plot and emphasis on Mater being contributing factors.
What's it about?
Lightning McQueen, now a four-time Piston Cup champion, heads back to Radiator Springs for some quiet time but is mocked by Italian Formula One racer Francesco Bernoulli into taking part in the first-ever World Grand Prix. Created by Sir Miles Axelrod as a way to promote his newly-released fuel Allinol, the World Grand Prix is open to vehicles of all shapes and sizes (providing they use Allinol in the race) and Lightning accepts Francesco's challenge. Together with his best friend Mater and his pit-crew, they travel to Japan for the first race.
However, villainous mastermind Professor Zündapp has developed a camera that destablises Allinol and causes it to explode. Hot on his trail are British secret agent Finn McMissile and his rookie accomplice Holley Shiftwell, who mistake Mater for their American contact. As the Grand Prix continues, Mater finds himself accidentally drawn into the world of spies and criminal masterminds - which has frightening consequences for everyone involved...
Larry The Cable Guy
Sir Miles Axelrod
John Lasseter & Brad Lewis
Ben Queen *
Release Date (UK)
22nd July, 2011
Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Family
What's to like?
It's tempting to give the film a proper kicking after it failed to score many points among critics. But whether they like it or not, they are still some aspects of the production worth praising - like the film's quality of animation. It's not easy to buy into the concept of a world populated purely by anthropomorphic vehicles but like its predecessor, Cars 2 makes it look easy with breath-taking vistas and colourful locations teeming with life. The characters are equally as varied and animated with each one having a unique look as well as a recognisable real-world equivalent. Even effects like fire and water look spectacular.
The race scenes are easily some of the best scenes in the film with engine noises, tyre squeals and roaring crowds replicating the atmosphere and excitement of an actual race meet. It's a shame that the film spends so much time with Mater bumbling his way through the side story because I wanted more racing scenes. But of course, I'm not the target audience - this is Pixar's first film since A Bug's Life to focus purely on pleasing the younger members of the audience and naturally, it gives kids all the noise and colour and comedy that they could ever ask for. If you are (or were) the sort of kid who raced toy cars around the house and provided your own narrative between the insane stunts and imaginary explosions then this is the film for you.
- The film contains numerous in-jokes and references to other Pixar films - characters from Brave can be seen as artwork in a London pub, the Drive-In cinema is showing a film called The Incredimobiles and Gusteau's restaurant from Ratatouille appears as Gastows.
- This was the first ever Pixar film not to be nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar since the category was introduced in 2001. It also became the first Pixar film not to win the same category at the Golden Globes since their award was created in 2007.
- Doc, the car voiced by Paul Newman in Cars, does not make an appearance after Newman's death in 2008. But the VW Camper Van Fillmore does appear and is voiced by Lloyd Sherr, replacing original voice actor George Carlin who also died in 2008.
What's not to like?
Sadly, the film's obsession with letting have Mater centre-stage means that the grating voice of Larry The Cable Guy is the only thing you'll hear once the end credits begin to roll. It also prevents the film from being about what it should be - racing. There is some fun to be had with the whole spy sub-plot which is mainly due to Caine and Mortimer's performance. But it does feel odd seeing cars doing stuff other than driving and it stops you from fully immersing yourself in this strange little world.
What's worse, the spying aspect is as clichéd as it comes - this film is nothing like as imaginative as the first film and feels completely derivative with its tricked-out spy cars, German baddies and needlessly complex schemes. It doesn't feel natural or as engaging as before with no real sense of fun besides laughing at Mater's dim-witted nature and that wasn't as funny as they thought either. It's disappointing that Pixar felt the need to abandon adult viewers in order to cater exclusively for young children - yes, the in-jokes are there but we need more to keep us entertained. An adult finding this film fun really needs to get out a lot more.
Should I watch it?
Only if you have young children with you. Kids will enjoy the sheer spectacle, the vibrant and colourful assault on the eyes and ears while not really giving two hoots about the plot. But for grown-ups, this film is tragic proof that even Pixar can make a duffer from time to time. The visuals might look great and the in-jokes fly past you like racing cars but the lame story and weak performances suck the last of what enjoyment was left in the franchise right out. Perhaps we expect too much of Pixar but I suspect that laurels were being rested on this time around.
Great For: young children, fans of the first fan, Disney's merchandising opportunities
Not So Great For: grown-ups, Pixar aficionados, anyone who hated Cars
What else should I watch?
Oh, Pixar. Why did you decide that Cars was suitable material for a sequel - or was it just about the money? Surely there is only so much you can do with living vehicles and I believe the first film covered everything. It's much quieter and warmer than this noisy escapade and while it isn't a classic by any stretch, it's still more enjoyable than most of the non-Pixar competition. If you're looking for an example of how good Pixar really can be then I suggest WALL•E, Inside Out and Toy Story 3 as the perfect places to start.
While Pixar have dominated the CG animation genre for so long, the opposition are finally starting to make some headway into their lead. Despicable Me is a very funny film about a maniacal villain forced to become a good guy for once (and is much better than the billion-dollar spin-off Minions), The Adventures Of Tintin is a surprisingly enjoyable old-school adventure while Disney themselves struck gold with the colossal Frozen. If you thought Larry The Cable Guy was annoying then try having "Let It Go" stuck in your head for weeks on end...
© 2016 Benjamin Cox