The first Cars film wasn’t that great, yet after repeated viewings at the behest of my toddler I learned to appreciate the tender message about the feelings of obsolescence and being left behind in an increasingly fast-paced world. Unfortunately Cars 2 remains the dullest entry in the Pixar canon.
Cars 2 (2012) dir. John Lasseter, Brad Lewis
Featuring voice talents of: OwenWilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Eddie Izzard, John Turturro, Bonnie Hunt
By Alan Bacchus
Years later, after Cars arguably became one of Pixar’s most popular ancillary profit centres (after Toy Story), there arose a need for a sequel. In this film, John Lasseter (Pixar’s co-founder/creative leader and director of this film) expands the Cars world, creating an international spy story barely even related to the previous film.
In the first film Lightning McQueen, the pre-eminent cocky race car driver, represented the exciting yet superficial life of celebrity and the aw shucks folks of Radiator Springs, a small dead town on Route 66, represented the value of growing roots and staying true to home.
The star of this picture is actually Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), the rusted tow truck/country hick who loves to tag along with the fancy-pants McQueen. After seeing the revered Italian racer Francesco Bernoulli disrespect his buddy on TV, he challenges him to an all-star race of sorts with McQueen. This takes McQueen, reluctantly bringing along Mater, to far flung international locations like Japan and England.
Lasseter derives some typical fish-out-of-water hijinks exposing the country bumpkin to the extravagance of Tokyo. While gallivanting around town, Mater accidently gets recruited by a James Bond-type spy, Finn McMissile (Michael Caine), to help stop the maniacal world domination plot of a clandestine organization.
Racing is secondary to Mater’s stumbling around with the international British spies. If you enjoy Larry the Cable Guy's self-effacing white trash humour you’ll at least tolerate this film. Lightning McQueen is barely in it – same with those delightfully warm characters of Radiator Springs, including Sally and Mack.
Even the visuals leave much to be desired. Usually with each Pixar film we can see a noticeable step forward in technical achievement in computer animation. Cars 2 is a step backward, less impactful visually than any of the recent Pixar films, and even less so than the original movie. Most of the action is presented in an over-the-top hyper reality, whereas the original film was mostly photorealistic and contained in the physical geography of the Nascar racetrack, the desert highway or the small town of Radiator Springs. The opening action scene in this film, which takes place on a freighter barge, features overly produced gunfire and explosions. Most of this film is painted with this type of brush.
As such, Cars 2 feels like just a cartoon instead of a movie. In fact, it feels like simply an expanded version of the accompanying Pixar shorts, Cars Toons – Mater’s Tall Tales, bite-sized morsels of Cars-action featuring Mater and Lighting in fun adventures.
Cars 2 is the only across-the-board uniform failure from Pixar. Still, after 15 years and 12 movies, that’s a pretty good run.
Cars 2 is available on Blu-ray from Walt Disney Home Entertainment.