- Movie Rating -

Cars 2 (2011)

| June 20, 2011 | 0 Comments

Just before Cars 2 gets underway, a message on the screen reminds us that Pixar Animation Studio is celebrating its 25th anniversary.  This really is  something to celebrate.  Since Toy Story  back in 1995, Pixar has been turning out one great top-of-the-line animated picture after another.  These animators aren’t satisfied to just throw off a bit of weekend entertainment, they are making films that are going to be enjoyed and loved for years to come.

Cars 2  isn’t their best work, but it does what it does very well.  It doesn’t have the emotional pull of Toy Story 3  or Up.  Nor does it have the originality of WALL-E or Ratatouille, but what is has is a look and an energy all its own.  Unlike so many sequels that cynically march along through a clone retread of the original, Cars 2 expands on the idea of the original and takes its story on the road.

Cars, you will recall, took place entirely in a universe where cars are the dominate species and featured the adventures of speed junkie Lightening McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson), a hot-shot race car who got stalled in Radiator Springs where the way of life was a lot slower then he was use to.  Cars 2  leaves Radiator Springs behind and shows us that this world not only involves living, breathing cars but also planes, trains, boats, construction vehicles, you name it.  It kicks off when get involved in the European World Cup championship where his arch rival is an Italian Formula One race car named Francesco Bernoulli (voiced by John Turturro).

That car race is only a small bit of the film, however.  Most of the story is taken up Lightning’s best buddy Mater the Tow Truck (voice of Larry the Cable Guy) falling into an exciting spy adventure.  Mater accompanies Lightening to Europe as part of his pit crew, but his uncultured manner (he mistakes wasabi for Pistachio Ice Cream) gets him mistaken for a secret agent working undercover.  A James Bond-ish Aston Martin named Finn McMissle (voice of Michael Caine) is on the case with his girl-Friday Holley Shiftwell (voice of Emily Mortimer).  They are trying to uncover a plot by old gas guzzlers to give alternative fuels a bad name.  Mater, through his accidental incompetence, uncovers the scheme.

Where the first film centered on Lightning, this one becomes Mater’s story.  He and Lightening have a disagreement over Mater’s country-fried manner and that sets off the much larger spy plot that is far more exciting than I thought it would be.  Plus, I’ll admit that the mystery had me going.  There is a surprise at the end of the film that I didn’t see coming.  Maybe I was too distracted just looking at the backgrounds.  The movie has wonderful gags that are surprising and funny especially when Mater is fitted with voice activated weaponry that is set off by his country vernacular – especially when he says “Shoot!”

What is special about Cars 2  is that, like Kung Fu Panda 2  earlier this year, it opens up the world created in the first film and takes its story in a new direction.  The canvas created here goes to Japan, France, Italy and England where the frame of the film is packed with hundreds of different kinds of cars and car in-jokes, many of which will be missed on the first viewing.  The animators were generous with their visuals, allowing our eyes to find small details in the corners and in the backgrounds so that this world seems populated by more than just the characters in the center.

I love the new characters, in particular Finn McMissle, a James Bond-style car who sneaks around on pulleys and wires and has an array of dazzling weaponry.  I loved the shiny Holley Shiftwell who loves on Mater in a sweet little romance.  I love the German auto villain with his large monocle.  I even loved the Pope Mobile, which rides around on the back of, well, another Pope mobile.

Cars 2  may not be Pixar’s best film but it is miles ahead of most animated films I’ve seen lately.  The writers and the animators really tried to create something special here, not just a movie that gives us our money’s worth.  They created a fun, exciting world here made completely out of cars and fueled by their imaginations.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2011) View IMDB Filed in: Animated, Kids