U – 112mins – Animation/Adventure/Comedy – 22nd July 2011
Cars 2 picks up several years after the first with Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) ruling the Piston Cup. This leads him to be invited to the first World Grand Prix where he can pit himself against the best of the rest and in particular Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro) the cocky Italian stallion F1 car. McQueen’s crew led by Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) gather together and set out on the trip of a lifetime to Japan, Italy and England to fight for the right to be named the best in the world. While McQueen is off racing, Mater finds himself caught up in the secret world of government spies and espionage.
First off the graphics and world in which Pixar create is stunning with no little detail overlooked. Bringing some of the scenes into real world venues also helped to show off the talent of the people at Pixar. It was also interesting to see how cars go about your average human tasks such as flying on a plane and even going to the toilet with the phenomenal background detail dragging you into the film- plane pigeons were one of many nice touches. It sounds strange to say but at some points you almost forget you are watching cars.
The comedy level was good throughout and with a good (although somewhat predictable and disjointed) plot that hugged the Bond style template closely this has many things going for it. I don’t think it’s an out and out kids movie and would probably stick it in the young adult section but as with most Pixar, it transcends all the age boundaries.
The real problem I found with the film is that although the environment is great, it’s quite hard for the graphics team to be overly expressive with the cars themselves which lead me to not connect with the characters as much as I would have liked. If you don’t feel for the characters then the rest of the film starts to fall away beneath you. Also the plot is split into two separate stories so that at some points it feels like you are watching two movies rather than one.
Mater, while he worked well as a bit character in the original seems to be the main character for this which is a role less suited to him. He is a simple minded car who gets most of his laughs through slapstick which works well in small doses but not so much for the entire film. The lack of progression in character development from the first to this one also lets the film down with the lessons merely being relearned by the same characters again.
Out of all of Pixar’s creations, I have always felt that the Cars franchise was the weakest of the group and Cars 2 has failed change my opinion. Yes the graphics are some of the best yet and the world is very immersive but as characters go something was lacking and the whole idea of the film didn’t gel. Considering this is their 25th anniversary, I would have expected the cream of the crop but instead was only treated to a just above average performance. The graphics drag it into a higher rating.