Saturday, June 11, 2016

Movie Review: "Cars 2" (2011)

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Movie"Cars 2"
Director: John Lasseter and Brad Lewis
Year: 2011
Rating: G
Running Time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

When Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is goaded into joining an international racing tour by top Formula One racer  Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro), McQueen asks Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) and his crew to join him on the tour. Upon arriving in Japan, Mater is mistaken for an American spy by the British secret service and unknowingly gets assigned an mission to uncover and stops a diabolical plot to destroy the cars competing in the international racing tour.

"Cars 2" is Pixar's sequel to the nostalgic ode to middle America "Cars." The first film was about an arrogant young race car named Lightning McQueen, voiced by Owen Wilson, who would learn about humility and the importance of friendship through community service in a small town. It was also not exactly Pixar's highest rated film, and many critics tore it apart for deviating from the company's usual emotionally deep greatness with a by-the-numbers plot. This time, however, Lightning McQueen takes a back seat to Mater, voiced by Larry the Cable Guy. McQueen's only job in this sequel is to act as a catalyst to get Mater to the location he needs to be in so his story can start. Unnecessarily and unexpectedly, that story winds up being spy thriller that is essentially a kiddy version of James Bond with the unlikely Mater as the protagonist. Mater is mistaken for a spy by British secret service agents Holly Shiftwell, voiced by Emily Mortimer, and Finn McMissile, voiced by Michael "I'll Take the Job" Caine. Mater is unknowingly sent on a mission to unravel the mystery about a sinister plot going on during the international racing tour McQueen has agreed to participate in.

In the original "Cars," Mater had a sweet, innocent, gullible charm to him, and even though we're not fans of Larry the Cable Guy, we agree he was the perfect choice for such a character, one who was assigned the task of 'best friend ' not main character. Here, in this case of Bond-meets-mistaken identity, "Cars 2" ups the ante on Mater and makes him as annoying as automotively (the car version of 'humanely') possible. It's as if the filmmakers heard that audiences full of kids liked Mater in the original "Cars" so much, they figured they'd give him more of an opportunity to speak one of Larry the Cable Guy's signature catch phrases, "that's funny right thurr." Why not give the people more of what they like? Because people don't really know what they like, that's why. When Mater was the background character, he worked well with Lightning McQueen and the other small town cars featured in the original. Now, all of those characters have been relegated to the background and an entirely new group of stodgy British cars has taken over. Mater is only likable in small doses. We equate it to a pizza. Everyone likes pizza, right? If you ate so much of it that it made you sick and made you throw up, it'd probably take a long time for you to want eat, let alone look at another slice of pizza again. This is exactly how we feel about the overabundance of Mater in "Cars 2." He's like tequila: one or two shots is fine, but after the seventh shot, it starts to feel like a bad idea, like you've made a huge mistake in having those 7 shots with another 15 lined up ready to drink.

Mater isn't the only problem here. We aren't exactly sure why they decided to turn this franchise into a spy thriller one. It just doesn't line up with the spirit of the "Cars" universe, unless the spirit of the "Cars" universe is just to borrow plot lines from other movies and replace all of the characters with cars, boats, airplanes, and other vehicles and methods of transportation. We never found ourselves getting into the movie because of this. It's as if those involved behind the scenes took the 5 years between the two films and watched every single James Bond movie while they were on vacation and couldn't get the idea out of their heads, so it had to be done as soon as possible, only the next possible opportunity was "Cars 2," and dammit, they were going to make it work!! It's not only that it's a spy thriller plot, it's that it's a poorly executed, lazily written spy thriller plot. While the voice acting cast is still great and the animation is just the same as it was in 2006, crisp, clean, and bright, vibrant colors and squawking voices aren't enough to keep us wholly entertained, and this inexplicable plot gives it a glaring disadvantage, especially with a stunning lack of Pixar's signature deeply emotional message.

We didn't really think it was possible that Pixar was ever going to make a bad film, but this one is simply not great at all. Their track record was ruined by this sequel. It is the first and only Pixar film we haven't enjoyed. Outside of the occasional chuckle and a few car puns, there isn't much here that's worth seeing.

My Rating: 4.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 39%
Do we recommend this movie: No.
One year ago, we were watching: "Black Souls"

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