Cars 2 Directed by: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis Cast: (voices) Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine Running Time: 1 hr 52 mins Rating: G Release Date: June 24, 2011
PLOT: Race car Lightning McQueen (Wilson) and his sidekick Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) head around the world to compete in the World Grand Prix race. Things take a turn when Mater gets mistaken for a spy.
WHO'S IT FOR? Do you wholeheartedly love cars AND dream they would come to life? Do you think Cars is the best Pixar film? What about anything spy related? And by anything, I mean you don't care about the quality. Answer "yes" to those questions and it will be helpful if Mater is your favorite Cars character.
EXPECTATIONS: With Toy Story 3, I wasn't very excited, but I assumed Pixar knew what they were doing. I didn't have the same hunch with Cars 2. Cars was fine, but nothing magical.
Larry the Cable Guy as Mater: Yup, Mater is the main character. He's an idiot, right? Fine, maybe he's not an imbecile, he obviously is a genius when it comes to automobiles. So, in a way, Mater is just an enhanced/exaggerated version of Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei) from My Cousin Vinny. Mater gets mistaken for a spy. It keeps happening. What's worse than the lack of jokes is he's an idiot! Yup, I've decided. The problem is, he doesn't have a filter. He's loud and assumes he's right without listening to others. It doesn't make him an idiot that he doesn't know what wasabi is, it's the fact that he won't listen when people try to explain. That all adds up to be pretty annoying. Score: 3
Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen: Wow, he's really become a second banana for this sequel. McQueen is racing the World Grand Prix against the best of the best. We don't get to know any of those cars except Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro) who's simply doing a poor man's Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Lightning yells at Mater with good reason; he cost him a race. Seems warranted. While the racing does look good, this character brings no excitement to the track. Score: 4
Michael Caine as Finn McMissile: He's our James Bond spy car. We quickly realize he's almost perfect, able to always get out of trouble. Some of his tricks are interesting, but not compelling. This character actually showcases why Bond films have to sway toward inner turmoil to stay relevant. Score: 5
Emily Mortimer as Holley Shiftwell: She's the new spy on the block and accidentally identifies Mater as their U.S. contact. While kids might enjoy the potential light romance brewing between Mater and Holley, I just though it felt awkward, you know, cause Mater is an idiot. Score: 5
TALKING: There's a lot of talk in the beginning about how Doc Hudson (Paul Newman's character from the first Cars) would be proud of Lightning. It feels forced, especially since I love Newman so much more than Cars. The message of Cars 2 is accept your friends, don't try to change them. In this case, with Mater, I disagree. Electric fuel vs. evil oil is brought up many times with Allinol as the potential future fuel source. As far as the funny goes, I really only laughed once with Mater in a bathroom. I know, bathroom humor. Surprised me too. Score: 5
SIGHTS: It's technically interesting, just like a bad James Bond film. I never felt myself wondering what would happen next, but they pulled off some actions sequences with some flair. It's interesting to think about Pixar films and the visuals. Most of the time, I'm dazzled. But clearly, it's because I'm connected to the characters. It's either that or cars that are alive are just plain creepy. The 3D is immersive, but unnecessary. Score: 7
SOUNDS: Brad Paisley and Robbie Williams share a song because this is supposed to be a film where American country meets sophisticated English. Most perplexing for me was The Cars song "You Might Think." It was a cover. Why? The only reason it's in the movie is because ... ha, ha, the name of the band is the name of the movie. Right? Well, Weezer covered it. The score doesn't raise the film to new heights, but again, I think that's because I wasn't connected. Score: 5
BEST SCENE: Mater in a Japanese toilet. It exaggerates the culture to great delight. Plus, when Mater's done, he over explains, showing a little intelligence (Celsius vs. Fahrenheit).
ENDING: You'll never guess who turns out to be the villain, mainly because you won't care.
QUESTIONS: I bring up a couple of questions in my OVERALL section below, but here's another ... A taco truck? They have tacos in this world? Who's eating the tacos?
REWATCHABILITY: Argh. No thanks. And no part three please. I don't care how much this movie makes.
The world of Cars and now Cars 2 just doesn't feel quiet right. There's no reference to humans, yet cars are clearly built. All signs point to boats and planes working for the cars. Is it a slave system? Are they paid? Also, cars can die (Doc Hudson did) without exploding. Yet, the engine isn't the soul since there is a reference to it being replaced. Look, I know I'm diving in a little deep with Cars 2, wondering if at one point the cars became self aware, rose up, and killed all the humans to create a world that mirrors the one we live in. All of these tangents came to me for one important reason ... the movie is boring, so my mind wandered.
Let's dive deeper. There was also a very quick scene in which Mater was at a black market, and an old car had eyes where its headlights usually are. Did you notice how frightened Mater was? What does it mean? This freaked Mater out. It was like he was looking at something that just shouldn't exist. Something that should be lifeless. That's what this movie is, lifeless.
Pixar can bring bugs, toys and fish to life ... but the car thing isn't working unless you already worship the automobile. Pixar normally has the ability to appeal to everyone with their films. That's not the case here.
One last thing about Mater. He's an idiot. He's a loud, obnoxious idiot. He should realize the problems he brings on himself and to his friends, but that doesn't happen here. Instead we're just supposed to accept him for who he is.
Pixar is allowed to stall on occasion, and that's what they've done with Cars 2.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10