I really, truly enjoyed Pixar / Disney’s ‘Cars’ when it came out a couple of years ago, despite the somewhat lukewarm reception it received. For the sequel ‘Cars 2’ I'd loved to have been privy to the great John Lassiter and his team as they plotted this one out. The first movie was about the redemption of the brash Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), so with Lightning all mellowed out now and basically a good guy, what to do with the sequel? Outside of not making one which, of course, is not an option. Disney… a company that charges eighteen dollars for Mickey Mouse branded sno-cones at Disney on Ice events. Seriously, I was there. So Team Lassiter came up with a 1960’s James Bond theme this time around, which was… odd. I’ll have you know that I thought it was very enjoyable, if not filled with the same heart and emotion of the first film, but it was odd. And car murder and a car torture will be the order of the day.
Our film opens as British Super Spy Finn McMissile (voiced by Michael Caine) infiltrates the oil drilling fortress of the infamous Professor Z (Thomas Kretschmann) and his legion of AMC Gremlin and Pacer lackey’s. The AMC Gremlin… ugh. Personal issues with the Gremlin aside, McMissile observes the shenanigans, observes that his partner has been MURDERED, and has to make a thrilling run to safety before he was able to get all of the info before making his escape. What is Professor Z up to we wonder?
Next stop Radiator Springs where everyone, especially Tow Mater the tow truck (Larry the Cable Guy) is waiting for the return of the great Piston Cup champion Lightning McQueen. It’s a glorious reunion for our best friends, though Lightning would like to spend a little time with his girl Sally (Bonnie Hunt), but this return is complicated somewhat by the introduction of a new clean burning fuel. Super Rich Sir Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard) has introduced his new clean burning fuel and has sponsored a race circuit to show how great this fuel is, which is all good and fine until the Open Wheel champion Francesco Bernoulli (John Torturro) calls out Lightning
who was hoping to take some time off. Naturally Mater gets involved, Lightning steps up for his buddy and it’s off to Japan for the first race. Just so you know Lightning, despite his love of Mater, didn’t really want him along but Sally talked him into it. Lightning has his reasons and they are valid.
All of that is really here nor there because basically this movie is about Mater being mistaken for an American Super Spy. In Japan, before the real Super Spy was tortured and murdered, he stuck his secret surveillance on Mater’s person. Or chassis I guess. Now Mater has to work with Finn McMissile and his lovely assistant the sleek sports car Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) to find out what Professor Z is up to and more importantly, find out who is the mysterious figure pulling the professor’s stirngs. Once I saw the Professor surrounded by AMC Gremlins that were actually running, I knew he was up to no good. The way this thing is going to shake out, adventure awaits for our rusted out tow truck with the life of his best friend hanging in the balance. We’re just hoping Lightning doesn’t get tortured and murdered in the process.
My son was a little disturbed upon hearing the synopsis for this ‘Cars’ sequel, commenting that Mater as a super spy is ‘unrealistic’. Of course I had to point out that this is a movie world that features talking cars that date each other, fall in love and have car babies, but Mater being a super spy was unrealistic. Kids, I tell you.
Anyway, where the first film was a very human experience, despite the presence of talking automobiles, with ‘Cars 2’ director Lassiter has set a lot of the humanizing elements aside and given us a film, that at it’s heart, is an action flick. And I’ll have you know that it is a darn good action flick. Since it’s a Pixar production we can already safely assume that the animation will be flawless, the production values will be beyond reproach… note that we opted to see it in 2D… the story they are telling us will be easily digestible and the voice acting will be top notch. I believe we can put checks by all of those assumptions.
This time around Mater is the star of the show and while I’d probably opt for a root canal as opposed to watching one Larry the Cable Guy’s live action movies… Witless Protection… Delta Farce… both we’ve tragically seen here… but with Mater being introduced in the first movie, refined in the Mater’s Tall Tales CN shorts and perfected here, we’re good with The Cable Guy and the personality he brings to the table with Mater. Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, John Torturro… the list of high quality actors lending their vocal talents to this movie is as long as my arm, but Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer practically stole the show with their super smooth British spy intonations.
The issue, outside of the fact that there’s this gigantic plot hole that doesn’t make any sense once everything is revealed that we are not going to get into… it is a movie about talking cars for goodness sakes… but the issue is the every single animated movie that’s released is measured against Pixar. Including the ones released by Pixar. I have to imagine that is daunting because this bar is sky high. In that vein ‘Cars 2’ isn’t ‘Finding Nemo’ or ‘The Incredibles’. It isn’t even ‘Cars’ as far as I’m concerned as this movie doesn’t give you the magical vibe that Pixar’s best seemed to do on a regular basis but this doesn’t make ‘Cars 2’ any less entertaining or any less fun to sit through, this just makes it… dang, I hate saying this… but it makes it a mediocre Pixar movie.
But a mediocre Pixar movie is still very, very good movie when standing all by itself in a sea morass. With that in mind we enjoyed ‘Cars 2’ an awful lot.