The setting: It’s late February 2012, wait, scratch that…it’s January 2012, and the Oscar nominees are being rattled off; some A-list celebrity is about to read the candidates for Best Animated Film, and wouldn’t you know it, a Pixar film is noticeably missing…
That’s because Cars 2 sputtered at just about every turn. If you’re looking for what makes Pixar the perennial dominating product in this genre, this 113 minute flick is a very average sample size. And don’t pull the “it’s for the kids” on me this time people; for the only element these said kiddies will laugh at are the funny accents two of the talking cars deliver. Even the animation just seems like its on cruise control half the time. Can you be cited for being under the influence while making a movie about automobiles? Cause the directors should be for their often times out-of-control execution in this sucker.
Now labeling something very average doesn’t mean it’s dreadful. And though this review could easily use an infinite number of car metaphors and puns to illustrate why this flick ran like a 4-cylinder as opposed to the V8 audiences have come to expect from this heralded studio, we’re going to try not to go there too often. Just like the studio should have not gone the sequel route here.
Our refurbished tale sees the sharp sports car, Lighting McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) and his unorthodox, small-town tow-truck best friend Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy), taking part in a world championship race to help promote an alternate fuel source, which would make oil obsolete in cars. While attending lavish events in Japan, Italy and England, McQueen gets into a rivalry with an arrogant Italian race car named Francesco Bernoulli (voiced by John Turturro). Their desire to beat each other becomes intense and McQueen needs to remain focused on the task at hand. So when he allows Mater to tag along and work in the pit crew for the first time ever, the curious tow-truck who likes to shake things up in his own unique – and indirect – way, causes McQueen some issues on the track.
Meanwhile, Mater somehow is also mistaken for an American spy, as British agents Finn McMissile (voiced by Michael Caine) & Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) force him into an espionage caper involving a mystery villain, who is purposely sabotaging the races McQueen is participating in. Since Mater has a junkyard crush on Holley, he reluctantly goes along with the mission, yet gets more fired up when he realizes that his best friend McQueen is the latest target.
Look, this is paced well for the younger audiences’ attention span and the jovial accents of Larry the Cable Guy and John Turturro will get them laughing even if they don’t comprehend all the jokes. The physical make-up shows the Pixar shine every now and again, too. Seeing cars, planes and ships with personalities will catch your eye for a while. But it will never tickle the funny bone as other recent animations have been able to smoothly accomplish. This would be satisfactory if there was a rich story on display, yet the cartoon James Bond with a goofy sidekick angle will only please those that have never experienced this redundant theme before. So of course a good portion of hyper summer kids will be drawn to this. Just be prepared to explain what happened when this wistful feature concludes parents/guardians/babysitters/older siblings/recreation park supervisors/etc. That is, if the kids give a crap.
And that’s the biggest issue with Cars 2: It’s so uneven that film professors could go on for days about all its defects. The story haphazardly goes from being completely calibrated for wholesome entertainment, and then jumps to moments where characters meet their demise in not-so elaborate action skits. Yeah, characters die here. So as far as continuity goes, this script looks as if some portions were written by Chris Columbus, while others were under the guidance of the destructive Michael Bay. As stated earlier though, the kids will simply give blank stares at the 3D screen during these nonsensical transitions.
Finally, much respect to Michael Caine, Larry the Cable Guy, Emily Mortimer and John Turturro for their exuberant voice work. If they weren’t subjected to being trapped in an animated frame, this may have been more engaging. Pretty sad when one yearns for live-action actors instead of the dated CGI atmosphere.
Overall, Cars 2 is nothing special. The characters are as much fun as a 1990 Volvo…safe, but boring as hell to drive. Portions of the animation reveal glimpses of the creative minds at Pixar (kind of like this review haha). That said, the animation – even with the 3D – is more of a matte finish rather than the patented glossy that will continuously entice audiences to explore this world. In the end, Cars 2 should be recalled from theaters and placed in the DVD shop. And so much for avoiding all those metaphors eh?
RATING: 2 out of 5