Cars 2 (Blu-ray)
When you think of excellent computer-animated films, chances are the first name that comes to mind is Pixar. In their short history they have created some of the finest worlds ever imagined. I remember being worried when they first broke away from Disney, but their pairing has continued over the years and resulted in some phenomenal animated films. There are only 2 that I have even been worried about… I speak of the CARS films.
I don’t get NASCAR. Not that I have a problem with people enjoying it, but the whole car-racing thing just never made sense to me. So when the original CARS was released I didn’t have any interest. A few months ago CARS 2 hit theaters, and around that time I got to watch the original film for the first time. I was actually pretty excited about the sequel after finally seeing CARS and being proved wrong, but CARS 2 just doesn’t live up to the Pixar tag.
The movie opens with an introduction to our primary plot, featuring secret agent cars with incredible gadgets. We follow the smooth talking British agent Finn McMissile (Michael Caine), who is trying to find a missing agent. It’s an interesting open with magnetic wheels, spy boats, cars with blow torches and guns, and lots of action. Then we kick back to Radiator Springs, where we see the story lines start to come together. It’s a few years since the original, and Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) spends his life in Radiator Springs when he isn’t racing.
He’s just won his fourth straight piston cup but he turned down a chance to race in the first-ever World Grand Prix so that he could go home to his friends. His vacation is short-lived, however, when he is pulled back onto the racetrack after Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) defends him from a cantankerous F1 car named Francesco (the very funny John Turturro). While Lightning appears to have embraced his new life, he still doesn’t take his tow-truck best friend Mater with him during race season and he’s concerned that Mater won’t know how to behave if he invites him to come along.
Surprising to no one – this is exactly what happens. Mater embarrasses Lightning at their first event, and it continues to get worse from there. When the secret agents mistake Mater for the American spy they are supposed to meet, he gets pulled into their secretive world. When they try to save him from the bad guys, Mater ends up confusing Lightning and costing him the first race. When Mater leaves so that he doesn’t cost his friend more races, he’s pulled deeper into the spy world. The spy scenes work pretty well and they have a lot of fun putting the cars into James Bond-ish moments. And, it turns out Mater is actually able to help them quite a bit with his tow-truck knowledge and his honesty; you actually find yourself rooting for him. (I never thought I would say that about ANYTHING involving Larry the Cable Guy).
CARS 2 isn’t a bad movie, it’s fun and pretty and has characters that you might care about, IF you saw the first movie. But, the movie doesn’t follow Pixar’s own rule for sequels – involving the key players. The movie drifts further and further away from the characters that we all came to love (or at least like) in the original, and it never really comes back home. What’s more, the new characters are fun, but they aren’t fully developed. The main problem is CARS 2 feels like a cash-grab and that hurts. Think “Cars 2: Revenge of the Fallen” and you’ll get the idea. It’s pretty. I don’t doubt they loved the idea of a different take on the CARS world… but they should have waited for a better (less-flashy) script. This one reminds me of every Disney straight-to-video release ever made.
CARS 2 is actually hurt by the Pixar name. If this movie was made by Dreamworks or another studio I think it would have worked… but we expect more from you, Pixar. We expect more.
Video: (1080p, 2.39:1 Widescreen) The video on Disney Blu-rays is incredible. Once again they set the standard for animated excellence. What amazes me constantly about Pixar films is the complexity of the world they present. This world loses NOTHING in HD.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1) The sound is a master-class in putting dialogue and score to an action and sound effects heavy film. Everything is presented in crystal-clear HD audio. The highs and lows are within a great range that works at whatever volume you set.
Audio Commentary with Director John Lasseter and Co-Director Brad Lewis: An incredible commentary which keeps you engaged throughout the entire film. Lasseter tends to run things a bit, and it is a bit technical, but if you liked the movie or are interested in why or how they made it, you should definitely check this out. I’m finding it hard to sustain my original disappointment in the movie after listening to their impassioned discussion.
Hawaiian Vacation (05:50) A short “TOY STORY TOON” from the TOY STORY 3 universe. The toys try to brighten Ken and Barbie’s winter vacation when they aren’t included in Bonnie’s trip. Really nicely done.
Air Mater (05:22) A “CARS TOON” featuring everyone’s favorite dump truck learning to fly. This one is pretty cute.
Also included on the disc are various sneak peeks and a look at the CARS 2 videogame.