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Cars 2

A 2011 movie directed by John Lasseter and Brad Lewis.

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It's No Lemon, but it Could Use a Tune-Up

  • Jun 25, 2011
Star Rating:

It seems inconceivable, but for the first time, the Disney/Pixar team has made a movie that misses the mark. I never thought I’d be writing these words. For sixteen years now, they’ve produced nothing but quality entertainment, and that’s not the kind of track record you come across every day. The Toy Story films were bright, imaginative, and fun. A Bug’s Life was cute and colorful. The Incredibles was energetic and engaging. Finding Nemo was heartfelt and beautifully rendered. WALL-E and Up were masterpieces that redefined the standard for animated films. Now we have Cars 2, which is serviceable at best as a generic 3D cartoon comedy. It’s saturated with vivid colors, it tells a lot of family-friendly jokes, and the action sequences are plentiful, but it’s all superficial. Unlike the previous films, this one lacks heart.
The original Cars was a charming film, mostly in the way it anthropomorphized automobiles and other vehicles. In this alternate universe, human beings didn’t exist. Neither did insects; one of my favorite shots in the first film revealed them to be tiny Volkswagen Beetles with wings. That same sense of playfulness is present in Cars 2. The issue is that it’s at the mercy of a plot which is little more than James Bond movie crossed with an extended installment of Mater’s Tall Tales, a series of shorts you could sometimes see in theaters and on The Disney Channel. Since the events of the first film, sports car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) has won the coveted Piston Cup, a racing award, four times in a row. Upon returning to the quaint desert community of Radiator Springs, he reunites with his best friend, the tow truck Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy).

An announcement is made for the first ever World Grand Prix. The favorite to win is an Italian F1 racecar named Francesco Bernoulli (voiced by John Turturro), who boasts nonstop about how much faster he is than McQueen. This, coupled with Mater’s enthusiasm, prompts McQueen to take part in the Grand Prix; in no time, they’re both cruising down the neon-drenched streets of Tokyo, where the first of the races will take place. It’s here that McQueen begins to feel embarrassed by Mater, who’s just too ... American. It’s also here that Mater is mistaken as a spy and drawn into a covert mission. Here enters Finn McMissile (voiced by Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (voiced by Emily Mortimer), British secret agents; they’re tracking the whereabouts of the evil Professor Zündapp (voiced by Thomas Kretschmann), who’s taking orders from an unknown operative hell bent on automotive duds such as Gremlins and Yugos reigning supreme.
Somehow connected to this dastardly plot is an oil tycoon named Miles Axlerod (voiced by Eddie Izzard), who’s not only sponsoring the World Grand Prix but is also promoting a new form of renewable fuel. The potential for topical humor was not taken as far as it could have gone, which is puzzling given how successful WALL-E was at sending a message about waste management, recycling, and a healthy lifestyle. The only real message one can derive from Cars 2 is that of friendship, which is nice, if monumentally derivative. All that’s left are spectacularly renders views of Tokyo, Italy, and London, and frenetic action sequences involving either racing or fantasy spy gadgets. The action is competent, although it’s hard to really appreciate it since car chases can so easily be created in a computer. Can you say the same thing about a live action car chase?

To be fair, there are many individual moments that are pleasant and funny. There’s a hilarious moment, for example, in which Mater finds himself in a Tokyo bathroom and is gob smacked by the sophisticated Japanese toilets (or, more accurately, the automotive equivalent of toilets, which are really just mechanics’ garages crossed with car washes); he watches a puffy-eyed cartoon on a TV monitor giggle with glee as it demonstrates the use of a bidet. And there are loving references to James Bond with the design of McMissile, inspired by the Aston Martin DB5; he’s equipped with all manner of spy gear, from missiles in his exhaust pipe to bombs in his hubcaps to tether lines in his undercarriage. He can even morph himself into a boat and a submarine.
What’s disappointing is that all the technical efforts were applied to a story that anyone can tell. This film could have been an animated spy comedy with human characters, and it would have had more or less the same effect – minus, of course, the tiresome practice of turning names into automotive puns. It might have even worked as a live action film, although the 3D would have been less effective. Not that it was all that effective in this case. A dream sequence is the only instance in which the process added something extra; the action scenes were a series of quick cuts, so when any close images zooms through the shot, all we see is a blur of motion. Because of Pixar’s track record, I’m confident that Cars 2 is not the beginning of a trend but merely a slight misstep. I anxiously await their next release.


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June 25, 2011
Pretty much you mirror my feelings almost 100%. I had fun with this one but it sure lost a lot of the 'heart' Pixar has been known for when it came to family films. I see you've reviewed "Beginners" also, I'll read that one after I see it.
June 26, 2011
Some have felt that this movie wouldn't be judged so harshly if it wasn't a Pixar film. There might be something to that argument. I honestly don't know how I'd feel about this story if it had been released by a different studio.
More Cars 2 reviews
review by . June 24, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
KA-CHAO!!!!! (Cue James Bond Music...And Turn On
Honestly, I wasn't a fan of the original “Cars”, it wasn’t bad but I thought it was the weakest Pixar production to date and so I was dumbfounded as to why Pixar would make a sequel out of it after “Toy Story 3” when “The Incredibles” (my second favorite Pixar movie next to “Ratatouille”) was just screaming for an expansion-sequel of its premise. I guess Pixar wanted to add more ‘zest’ on “Cars’” fanciful …
review by . June 23, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
'Cars 2' 'Two Jews On Film' Celebrate Their 100th Review With Pixar's Newest (Video)
      'Cars 2 is the new 3D wonder from director John Lasseter.  John and his crew at Pixar have once again proven why they are the best at what they do.      To really enjoy this film, you have to put aside any ideas that cars can't talk, can't have friends and girlfriends, can't experience human emotions and can't be killer spies.  (Something the other half of Two Jews On Film, John my husband, wasn't able …
Quick Tip by . August 24, 2012
This movie continued the story of the first movie, but did not try to replicate the first movie. I like how this movie took the characters out of the country and took on a spy theme. They gave the story several twists and turns without losing the audience.
review by . June 28, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
The first Cars film was a surprising delight.  The first (and until now only) Pixar film that had no humans to connect with still managed to have quite a bit of its own humanity and satire.  It had funny and delightful characters that gave off a family togetherness vibe.  Radiator Springs was a place that, once the first film was over, you felt like you wanted to come back to.  If there is one film where a sequel is something somewhat questionable, it is definitely Cars.  …
review by . June 24, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Vroom Vroom!
CARS 2   Written by Ben Queen   Directed by John Lasseter   Voices by Larry the Cable Guy, Owen Wilson, Emily Mortimer and Michael Caine       Luigi: No fight more important than friendship.       CARS 2 marks the first time where I could not care less about a Pixar release. I didn’t buy the world made up entirely of cars in the first instalment and thought the idea of a race-car learning to slow down in life …
review by . July 19, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
U - 112mins - Animation/Adventure/Comedy - 22nd July 2011   Cars 2 picks up several years after the first with Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) ruling the Piston Cup. This leads him to be invited to the first World Grand Prix where he can pit himself against the best of the rest and in particular Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro) the cocky Italian stallion F1 car. McQueen's crew led by Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) gather together and set out on the trip of a lifetime to Japan, Italy and …
review by . June 26, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
For the last five years, Pixar has been on quite a roll, churning out one reliably solid animated film every summer. The last four have won Oscars for Best Animated Feature, and the last three (WALL-E, Up, and Toy Story 3) are, in my mind, stone cold classics. This winning streak and reputation for quality are what make Pixar’s latest, “Cars 2,” not just disappointing, but puzzling.      The hero of the first “Cars” film, a race car voiced by Owen …
review by . July 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
My family and I saw Cars 2 in the theaters and while the effects were outstanding (water! speed chases! explosions!)--the story-line was so-so.    Basically, a bunch of lemons take ownership of a secret oil reserves in the ocean--and they want revenge on the "pretty" cars that never break down.    It's a weak premise, and lacks the heart of the original Cars.     I didn't care about any of the new characters, which are basically James Bond-type …
review by . July 06, 2011
My family and I were eager to see Car 2 in the theater, especially my son and I.    The plot? A bunch of lemons take ownership of a secret oil reserves in the ocean--and they want revenge on the "pretty" cars that never break down.    It's a weak premise, and lacks the heart of the original Cars (which stemmed from John Lasseter's very personal "aha" moment involving a road trip and the realization of the importance of friends and family).     I …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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Lightning McQueen (voice by Owen Wilson), Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), Sally (Bonnie Hunt), and the rest of the gang from Radiator Springs return to the screen in this sequel to Pixar'sCars(2006). But instead of evoking a nostalgic vision of Route 66 through the American Southwest, director John Lasseter and his artists spoof James Bond films in a fast-paced adventure that mixes espionage and road racing. After a successful season on the track, Lightning is looking forward to some rest at home, but Mater gets him involved in an elaborate three-part international race sponsored by Sir Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard) to promote his new synthetic auto fuel. While serving on Lightning's pit crew, Mater inadvertently gets mixed up with two British secret agent cars, Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer), who are investigating a plot to sabotage the race. Myriad complications ensue before Lightning and Mater get back to the (relative) peace of Radiator Springs. The Pixar artists clearly had a lot of fun spoofing locations in Tokyo, London, Paris, and the Italian Riviera, and creating auto versions of sumo wrestlers, kabuki actors, Queen Elizabeth II, and a doting Italian mother. The use of 3-D adds adrenaline to the racing sequences.Cars 2lacks the emotional impact ofToy Story 2,Up, and most of the other Pixar features, but that will do little to lessen its appeal to its target audience, boys who love cars, driving games, and car toys.Cars 2is ...
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Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy
Release Date: 24 June 2011 (USA)
Screen Writer: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios
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