Film Review – Cars 2
The characters that they added to this installment all did a fine job with what they were given. I particularly liked Michael Caine’s performance as Finn. That strong British accent adds a lot of class to his character, while at the same time giving him the sense that he could be someone that could run you over if he needed to. John Turturro steals the show as Francesco Bernoulli. I wonder how much of his dialogue was written and how much was simply improv, because Bernoulli is so enjoyably over the top and unpredictable that he makes for a great counterpoint to Lightning’s straight man. Some of the best moments in the movie are when Francesco and Lightning simply have a back and forth, jabbing each other with insults and revving up in an attempt to out-muscle the other. Their repertoire together is very good; it comes through and appears naturally. Watch Francesco’s reactions, in particular during the climactic points of the movie. Turturro’s vocal reactions are so good that he had me laughing out loud with his bewilderment.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the things that weren’t so good. I think one of the big issues that I had with the movie was the fact that they made Mater the lead character. I’m simply not the biggest fan of Larry the Cable Guy; his kind of comedy is not very funny and it wears thin very quickly. I know that Mater plays an important role in this world, but to have him featured as the most important character doesn’t quite work for me. To have the comic relief as your lead is a gamble, and as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) also proved, it doesn’t necessarily improve your movie. In fact, Mater is focused upon so much that Lightning McQueen turns out to be his sidekick this time. Unfortunately, Lightning spends the entire movie going around unaware of the real story that’s happening; all he knows is that he is a part of this race with Francesco. It would have been nice to have Lightning (who was the lead in the previous movie) be somehow involved with the more interesting storyline, but that didn’t happen. So at the climax of the movie, with Lightning chasing Mater trying to find out what’s going on, I found myself impatient that Lightning hadn’t caught up with the rest of us.
An even bigger issue for me was that this movie just does not have the emotion that made Pixar such an acclaimed giant. I understand that John Lasseter (who directed) and his team were trying to go for a fun, simple joyride, but it does feel like this movie is a step back from the trend of movies that they’ve been making. What makes Pixar so special is that they are able to create stories that are fun and entertaining for children, but at the same time have the emotional heft that can move even the most cynical of adults. They’ve created original properties that are so good that their brand has become juxtaposed with that of great, heartfelt storytelling. I did not feel that here. They did try to give the film a little bit of heart, putting a bit of tension between Mater and Lightning and their friendship, but in the end that felt very sitcom-like. Whatever question the film tries to raise between these two cars falls pretty flat; I think we all know where Mater and Lightning will end up even before we walk into this movie. This is the first non-Toy Story sequel that has come out of the studio, and with other sequels for other franchises in the works, I fear that they are heading down a path that many of us would agree they shouldn’t.
But with all that said, Cars 2 is still a pretty enjoyable popcorn flick. Its action is very well done, the animation is what you would expect it to be, and it has a good amount of laughs. While this movie didn’t stick with me after I walked out of it, I did enjoy it while I watched it. It is without a doubt made for kids; if you have children this is the movie to take them to, as I’m sure they’ll have a fun time watching it. Also, be sure to get to the theater early, as the Pixar short film Hawaiian Vacation (2011) plays before it. This is a hilarious short, probably one of the better ones that Pixar has made in recent years, and features a cast of characters you may be familiar with from the past. With that, and the main film together, it’ll make for a pretty good time at the movies.
Final Grade: B