Cars 2 (Disney Pixar)
It’s hard to believe that the first of the Pixar films we’ve come to know and love was originally released in 1995. Sixteen years ago, the art of animation was forever changed by the unlikely friendship of a pull-string cowboy and an heroic space commando. Fortunately for Disney, the Toy Story franchise was universally relatable enough to pull off not only one, but two sequels with tremendous success.
This weekend, approximately five years after Cars debuted in theaters, the company had its fingers crossed in hopes to accomplish that same feat by releasing CARS 2. Unfortunately, it comes up just short of a victory at the finish line.
The road trip agenda for this installment begins by paying homage to the spy films of the early ‘60s with a very 007-esque opening scene that introduces the audience to this film’s supporting character Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) — a British roadster with more tricks, bells and whistles that would make James Bond green with envy. His sidekick, Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) mistakes everyone’s favorite redneck Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) as an American spy. Curiously, it’s racing sensation Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) who takes a storyline back seat to the lovable tow truck and his “mistaken” mission that leads them both to exotic locations such as Japan, Paris and London to participate in the World Grand Prix. The sponsor of the race is Allinol — an alternative fuel that will soon make Big Oil obsolete.
It was at this point that I think, “Okay. I’m sort of confused.” I quickly glance across the half-way full theater and wonder if there is any way the kids are following? Plus, I quickly deduced that I’m not really into the story. It’s hard to follow. It’s a bit too technical. There’s more gun slinging than an R-rated shoot-em-up and I’m pretty sure the “body” count for the bad guys is up to the double digits at this point.
I also felt that the writers pushed a little too far when taking the setting to three different international locations. The plot sped along so quickly, that we were never able to enjoy all of the tiny nuances that are classic Pixar. Just when you began to appreciate the “car” twist on an everyday detail, you were transported to another country. Or that detail blew up in some cases.
How did we get from the sweet, heartfelt story in Radiator Springs to this?
A quick inventory of my fellow movie participants, I gathered that most of the little boys in the audience were content to see Mater on the big screen. He can do no wrong in their young adolescent brains. The grown-ups seemed more disappointed than the kids. Of course, one less-than-perfect film in the Pixar catalog is nothing to be ashamed of. Here’s hoping that the company’s next release will find itself in the winner’s circle among fans.