With “Cars 2,” even Pixar fluff is still better than most so-called family fare.
**** out of 5
Walt Disney Pictures
Article first published as Movie Review: Cars 2 on Blogcritics.
Sixteen years, 12 films, and 40 Oscar nominations later, Pixar has finally delivered their first true fluff piece. Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s still miles ahead of what’s considered “family” entertainment these days and lives up to the studios typical standards. John Lasseter may be back in the driver’s seat since he brought us the original lackadaisical Cars back in 2006, but thankfully he found a reason to bring his billion dollars worth of merchandising back to the big screen with “Cars 2.”
“Planes” on the horizon. By plopping Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) and his BFF Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) into the middle of the spy genre, it looks like the series is just getting warmed up.
“Cars 2” opens up as any episode of “Alias” or the latest “Bond” entry would with Finn McMissile (voiced by Michael Caine) looking for his lost agent who was last seen amongst the fiery oil rigs somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Finn discovers that his agent has been compounded and soon enough his own situation has been compromised and a grand chase unfolds. But not before McMissile leads Professor Z (voiced by Thomas Kretschman) and his cronies believe him to be killed. Now we find Mater up his old shenanigans, missing McQueen who quickly arrives back in Radiator Springs after winning his fourth Hudson Hornet Piston Cup. Here it’s business as usual where it seems like we’re going to be getting a whole lot of more of the same.
By taking the “Cars” characters and transplanting them into a whole new world (well, at least as far as the spy genre is concerned), Pixar has found a reason for this sequel to exist outside of selling billions more in merchandising. It’s a little more than coincidental however, that it’s being released with the opening of Cars Land as part of Disney’s California Adventures next summer. It’s a good thing the film is as good as it is to not fall under the spell of some other truly lackluster cash-grab sequels that have been unleashed upon us this summer (Disney’s own “Pirates 4” and “The Hangover Part II”).
The score by Michael Giacchino (a welcome Pixar regular now) brings to mind the best scores of spy movies past and Lasseter keeps the jokes flying no matter how high or low brow. While we do get more bathroom humor than most, Pixar somehow always manages to make them funny. And finally, the best joke in the entire movie is a nod to the reviews of the first one. I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “Whenever I need to find something to help me fall asleep, I put in “Cars.” It’s nice to see Pixar able to acknowledge their shortcomings while upping themselves.
“Kung Fu Panda 2” and “Rango” are, here’s hoping “Monsters University” can continue Pixar’s streak of showing just how well sequels can be done.
Photos courtesy Walt Disney Pictures