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Overall Rating

Awesome: 4.44%
Worth A Look: 17.78%
Average: 4.44%
Pretty Bad57.78%
Total Crap: 15.56%

6 reviews, 9 user ratings

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Cars 2
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by Erik Childress

"The First Truly 'Bad' Pixar Film"
2 stars

As certain as death and taxes, there is one irrefutable agreement amongst the frequently fickle gaggle of viewers in the film community. Cars is the weakest of the 11 feature films that they have produced since 1995. Up and down, far and wide it is hard to find one who would disagree and anyone that does is instantly whisked away on the shortbus for re-education. Maybe that is why John Lasseter and company decided to go back to the well and breathe new life into a project that was gestating right around the time that Pixar and Disney were battling it out with contracts. And maybe that fed into the film's original theme of old routes being forgotten about. And just maybe a sequel would erase all those doubts we never associate with the fine folks at Pixar unless the film focuses around anthropomorphic vehicles. The answer to, at least, that last question is a resounding "no" as Cars 2 is a hypocritical bore of a film that is fundamentally no different in tone, humor and plot than your average Larry the Cable Guy film.

Race car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) has been on a tear on the racing circuit of late, winning everything in sight. Now he's returned to Radiator Springs for a little break. His tow truck best friend, Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), has anxiously awaited his return and is disappointed when Lightning would rather have a date with his gal, Sally (Bonnie Hunt, left behind this time), than spend his first night back with him. Mater is particularly annoyed when Italian race car, Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro), denegrates Lightning's success on television where a brand new race is being launched. The World Grand Prix is the brainchild of Sir Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard) who is using the platform to push his new brand of alternative fuel which all competitors will use.

Across the pond where the race will take place over three countries, spy car Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) is investigating some goings on with the proprietors of an oil rig. Along with partner, Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer), they have evidence that the new race is about to be sabotaged faster than you can ask "who killed the electric car?" For the first time, Mater has joined Lightning on his trip around the world and he takes to inadvertently embarrass him at every opportunity and even cost him the first stage of the race. Due to a little mistaken identity though, Mater is believed to be the American contact for Finn and Holley and is whisked away on an adventure he's too clueless to know the ramifications of. But Mater wants to regain the trust of the friend and everyone else who thinks he is an idiot.

Except he really is an idiot. Good-hearted or not, but more on that later. The original Cars film took six credited screenwriters to fashion a story that was more or less the animated equivalent of Doc Hollywood, sans the Julie Warner lake scene. Early on in the sequel it appear that our hero, Lightning McQueen, had gone from aping Ben Stone's adventures to Ricky Bobby's as his newest rival may as well have just taken a queue from Sacha Baron Cohen's tauntings in Talladega Nights (minus the humor.) Lightning's story, surprisingly, becomes an afterthought this time around as the plot shifts to the age-old mistaken identity reverie of films like Bill Murray's The Man Who Knew Too Little and Richard Grieco's If Looks Could Kill (again, minus the humor.) In all the criticism leveled at Cars over the years, it would be hard to find the suggestion that the one thing the film was truly missing was more Larry the Cable Guy.

Maybe some kids out there can identify with a clueless, funny-looking clinger who shows up uninvited but only really wants to be accepted for who he is. But the movies are full of Rudolphs out there who are more sympathetic, understanding and funny than a character whose ignorance well overshadows his necessity to do good. In the human world Mater would be Jim Carrey's cable guy without the psychotic tendencies. The closest he gets to being a true friend in Cars 2, and the closest the film gets to showing some genuine heart (aside from a nice little tribute to Paul Newman) is desperately trying to keep Lightning away from the certain doom that may just be around the corner if their friendship continues. It's a cynical look at sacrifice, but also the only moment in the film where we feel something more than the occasional sweep of the beautifully rendered country scapes or trapped in a Flintstones-esque world of bad puns or even worse, another Larry the Cable Guy vehicle. Cause in a live-action world, the amount of laughs, star-slumming and hick humor equates Cars 2 to no more than that.

Further shocking is the ironic hypocrisy shown by the filmmakers in trying to get their message across. No one should complain that going green towards alternative fuels isn't a good thing; even if kids may not get the same kick out of mystery villain from "big oil." Considering though that the first Cars film was rooted in the melancholy over the future being a bad thing for a forgotten small town, to now turn around and ask them to embrace that change (which may render some of those older models obsolete) is rather off-kilter. Especially considering that the advent of Pixar has all but wiped out traditional 2-D animation while John Lasseter asserts that the wave of motion capture features being done by Robert Zemeckis and the upcoming Tintin films by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson shouldn't be classified as animation. Fear the future much, John? Never mind that Disney's golden age films like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty were either heavily rotoscoped or filmed in live-action prior to the laying down of cels. Lasseter may have gone the do-gooder route with Cars 2, but it was embracing the old and rusted that led to the friendship between Lightning and Mater in the first place.

In essence, Cars 2 arrives as the prettiest, shiniest direct-to-video sequel to ever get the golden ticket to muster up a theatrical release. Considering that Toy Story 2 was originally conceived as a home video effort until it was classed up into a feature that some would say is even better than its predecessor, maybe this film needed more than just another johnson rod. (The short, "Hawaiian Vacation," featuring the Toy Story gang that precedes Cars 2 in theaters contains more laughs, big and small, in its few minutes than the whole 100+ of the featured act.) Calling it Pixar's The Return of Jafar would be unfair, since that was actually a DTV sequel to a really good movie in the first place. Better to say that it is more like if Delta Farce was really the sequel to Delta Force. Kids may be into the shiny colors and goofiness, but adults have come to expect more for them with Pixar. Anyone over the age of eight will struggle to find a chuckle-worthy moment in the entire film (I had one and it involved a chef's subtitle) and feel cheated by the film serving as even a passable spoof of spy flicks. Michael Caine had better material as Austin Powers' father than he does here fitting a character with absolutely no panache or wit to him. Cause apparently when you have Larry the Cable Guy leading the pack it's best to just get out of the way. In pains to say that Cars 2 is not only the first Pixar film that should be actively labeled as "bad," but it is also the first one you may actually be sorry to have seen at all.

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originally posted: 06/24/11 03:00:00
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User Comments

3/23/15 Jerry Spray You can't put a Pixar film and a spy movie together. It doesn't work. 1 stars
10/26/11 ashley rexrode my kids really enjoyed this movi 5 stars
10/19/11 Magic A Larry Cable Guy movie. It's also a Pixar movie, but a Cable Guy movie nonetheless. Dammit 3 stars
8/11/11 Quang Thịnh Not better than the first one but it's quite good 2 stars
8/05/11 Robert Trebor Whoa! I fell asleep three times, and I saw the 3-D version! 2 stars
7/31/11 Quigley Easily my least favorite Pixar film. Long, boring and unfunny, but visuals are amazing. 3 stars
7/14/11 savvysweep1 funny movie especially for the kids 5 stars
6/30/11 Kim Phan I liked it. But than again, I'm a big fan of the first one~ 4 stars
6/26/11 Jennifer Barr kids loved it 4 stars
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  24-Jun-2011 (G)
  DVD: 01-Nov-2011


  DVD: 01-Nov-2011

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