Film Review – Cars 2
Pixar’s latest effort is an animated film that I had a little bit of reservation about when I walked in to see it. Cars 2 (2011), which is the appropriately titled sequel to Cars (2006), continues the adventures and hijinks of those lovable vehicles brought to life. Now, I must admit, the first film is probably my least favorite out of everything that Pixar has in their catalog. As light and fun as that movie was, its story was something we have seen before, it was geared towards a much younger audience, and it certainly did not have the emotional impact or catharsis that Pixar has given us in other movies, particularly in the last couple of years. With that in mind, I walked into this sequel a little hesitant. While the film was not as bad as I thought it would be (Pixar has never given us a “bad” movie, actually), and surprisingly better than the first, it definitely was not the great animated movie that seems to come out of this studio nearly every year.
This time around, the film leaves the small town of Radiator Springs and takes us on a worldwide journey that goes through Japan, Italy, France, and London. Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) has been tearing up the racetracks, leaving his competition in the dust and gaining trophies along the way. A unique opportunity develops when Sir Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard), a car who wants to tout the efficiency and safe use of reusable energy, invites all racecars from all countries to partake in the World Grand Prix, the ultimate race tour fueled by Axlerod’s very own environmentally safe gasoline. Lightning enters the race, if only to silence the loud-mouthed cockiness of Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro), the F1 car whose open wheels work as a point of infatuation for the females, and as a jealousy-filled motivator for McQueen. With his usual pit crew behind him, Lightning faces off against Francesco in a number of different and challenging tracks, all to determine who truly is the fastest car in the world. While Lightning is busy enough as it is with Francesco, he finds his hands full when his best friend joins him, and gets involved in the most unique of situations.
Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), the tow truck who is Lightning’s best friend (but who probably doesn’t have all the gears working in his head as well), comes to the forefront as the lead of the movie. Through a case of mistaken identity (and Mater’s own naïveté with the situation that’s going on around him), he gets involved in an international espionage story that would make James Bond proud. Finn McMissile (Michael Caine), a British agent, alongside his partner Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer), are in the middle of a dangerous plot that involves oil rigs and television cameras. In trying to fit the pieces together and find out exactly how this all relates to a mysterious villain known as Professor Z, Finn and Holley accidentally run into Mater in the middle of a secret transaction. Thinking Mater to be an American agent, Finn and Holley swoop him up in to their ordeal, believing Mater’s inanity to be one of the most realistic covers they’ve ever seen. From there, Mater unknowingly takes part in this highly volatile story, one which may very well endanger the contestants of the World Grand Prix, including Lightning McQueen.
Let’s start off with the good. I will say that this film was better than I was expecting it to be. Knowing that Pixar was simply going for an action-filled rollercoaster ride of a movie, I think it satisfied on that aspect alone. This certainly has more action than any other Pixar movie. We have fight scenes, characters sneaking into dangerous areas and going undercover, lots of explosions, and even gunfire. Of course, the racing is there as well; if we didn’t have that then what kind of car movie would this be? I found myself impressed with how well the action was realized. In particular, the opening set piece, with Finn McMissle infiltrating a highly guarded oil rig, the action surprised me with how exciting it was. The animation of course was highly rendered; this is really an element where Pixar simply has no competition. The way everything looked during the action and racing scenes was very well done, and I did like how they visualized the many different locales, giving each a specific look and feel that really made the environments play as a major part of the story.