Cars 2 - Hits the Road Running
June 25, 2011
In Pixar’s life of sixteen years and twelve films, it’s never come out with anything that was actually bad. The first Cars movie in 2006 was pretty formulaic fair - after toys, bugs, monsters, fish and superheroes, the studio was using cars as vehicles (pun unintended) for their standard humorous story about love, friendship and the underdog. With Cars 2, they take more of a chance.
The hero of the first film, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) takes a back seat as Mater, the rusty towtruck (Larry the Cable Guy) comes to the fore. Mater is McQueen’s goofy, happy-go-lucky best friend, and in this movie becomes inadvertently involved in an international espionage game. As McQueen participates in the World Grand Prix, to win the title of The Fastest Car on Earth, Mater helps British spy-cars Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) to uncover a conspiracy that has something to do with the race.
Unsurprisingly, animated films make the best use of 3D viewing, and like Kung-Fu Panda, Cars 2 uses the technology to its fullest potential. Visually, the movie is stunning, and John Lasseter (who has previously directed A Bug’s Life, the Toy Stories and Cars) outdoes himself yet again. Some devices, like toning down the explosive destruction of a car by showing it reflected in a working display screen, simultaneously segueing seamlessly into the next scene, would work great even in live action. The cars are brilliantly designed, and the cultural and industrial references remain the best part of the humour.
Michael Caine is splendid as the suave superspy McMissile, and Emily Mortimer’s wonderfully posh accent suits her character well. The two, in conjunction with John Turturro, make up for Larry the Cable Guy and Owen Wilson having voices that are just not lovable.
The plot is strong, if a little meandering in places, and my only worry for the film is that it might not appeal to children. Some aspects of it are just too sudden and complicated, and it’s not very funny beyond the fantastic slapstick worked up by the animators. The finale is slightly anti-climatic, but that doesn’t take away from the movie’s robust quality. If you like animation, don’t miss this one.