Cars 2 (2011) – Throws the caution flag.
It’s a challenge to critique movies for which you are squarely not within the intended audience. It’s part of the reason why The Fat Man and I skipped Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer. While I’m sure we would have done well to get in touch with our inner Heather Graham, we just didn’t think it fair to toss a pair of bad grades at a movie aimed at little girls. We’d much prefer tugging on their pig-tails and saying they have cooties. That being said, Pixar has always presented itself as not only the superior animated movie product to beat, it typically produces films that are creatively accessible on multiple levels. In fact within Wall-E and Up there are segments of pretty high end pieces of cinema. So for that reason, we’re reviewing Cars 2.
Except it appears that this time something went wrong.
Perhaps the creators were on a Hawaiian vacation much like Ken and Barbie enjoy during the throw-away Toy Story short that appears before the feature presentation. Yes, I know, I know. We should be so lucky to even get cartoons before our movies. But I remember when these things were completely original shorts that were almost as buzz worthy as the reason why we were in the theatre to begin with. Disappointment sets in early, though Woody and Buzz do try their best to remain relevant past the completion of their trilogy last summer.
When it comes to Cars 2, we’re treated to what is essentially a James Bond film featuring Larry the Cable Guy’s character Mater. Quickly I’m reminded of Arthur and how Russell Brand was in nearly every single scene. Except instead of a man-child out of control Brit, we instead get an even more grating redneck caricature that’s more hijinks than ha-has. Mater has been misconstrued as a spy, and there’s a whole caper involving alternative fuels. Yes, Pixar is all about the green technology, so you gotta have a bit of environmentalism with your fun as usual.
The only problem is there isn’t much fun to be had. At least not for an adult. The kids will likely enjoy some of the antics, as Mater screws up things but by doing so manages to solve problems along the way. Lightning McQueen is hardly featured. And everyone should really pay attention to just how marvelously beautiful the scenery is in the three international cities the World Grand Prix takes place in. (An effort included to no doubt boost international box office.) But really the spy story is just kind of lame. Not to mention rather violent for a rated G movie. I mean, cars with guns, rocket launchers, and tasers?
So, in conclusion, you probably can skip this movie unless you have little ones. Yes, the visuals are stunning and enhanced to some degree with 3D technology. And there is just a sliver of heart to be found in the midst of all the madcap espionage. But generally speaking, it’s all about the annoyance of Mater and marketing so that following the film’s conclusion you can buy lots of stuff featuring the Cars brand. After all, when I bought my ticket I was given a small pamphlet that let me know Target has ‘everything Cars‘.
If there’s any company I would kill to work for more than Google, it’d be Pixar. I think John Lasseter is brilliant. He could easily be described as the Lucas of animation – vision, drive, extreme creativity and organization – but he’s missed the mark on more that one occasion with A Bug’s Life and the first Cars movie. Maybe he should be creatively steering the company, not directing – don’t continue to be a Lucas.
Cars 2 centers on a sort spy story crossed with complete incompetence. Think Johnny English with a little Naked Gun thrown in, but less slapstick and more characters screaming “WHOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAA” every five minutes. The trailers promised cool race scenes set in exotic locations, much like Speed Racer, but never really delivered on any good car action (ha!). I try to view kids movies as a kid – enjoying the pretty colors, loud sounds, and over-the-top action. Cars 2 never grabbed my interest – too many cluttered sets, scattered plot, and too much Larry the Cable Guy.
I’m not opposed to big-name voice actors when they get in to a character (I almost forgot Jack Black was voicing Po…almost), but Owen Wilson and Larry the Cable Guy are completely overbearing in any situation. They ruined what could have been a fun kid movie in Cars and crushed the life out of Cars 2. I suppose when the lynch-pin of your story relies on a character voiced by a Southern hick persona created by a Mid-Western comedian, you might take a big gamble. Unfortunately critics and moviegoers reinforced Pixar’s decisions in a big way this weekend and without a doubt an annoying Cars 3 will hit theaters in a few years.
I can’t review a Pixar film without touching on the beautiful art of animation. Every shiny bit, piece of dust, fleck of water was art in motion. Pixar, hands down, is killing everybody when it comes to CG animation. I would love to see them take on visual effects for a live-action film. I think they could up the standard for the rest of the industry, not that it stops DreamWorks from cranking out their junk every 4 months. It’s a shame they didn’t have the typical strong story to compliment the talent in the animation department.
While the lovely graphics raised Cars 2 from D-grade depths, overplayed characters and a weak plot don’t do much for this movie. Even the short felt phoned in with recycled Toy Story characters and sets. At least I got to see the Brave trailer. Mmm.
Against his better judgement, The Fat Man gives it: