Cars 2 is proof that no studio is perfect and they all have missteps and hopefully this will be Pixar’s only one for the next 10 years. When it comes to the movie itself, there is some charming moments but they are too far and between and usually interrupted by Mater’s annoying persona.
Genre(s): Animation, Comedy, Action, Family
Disney | G – 106 min. – $39.99 | November 1, 2011
Directed by: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis
Writer(s): John Lasseter & Brad Lewis & Dan Fogelman (story), Ben Queen (screenplay)
Cast: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Eddie Izzard, John Turturro, Joe Mantegna, Bonnie Hunt, Tony Shalhoub, Jason Isaacs, Bruce Campbell
Theatrical Release Date: June 24, 2011
Features: Commentary, 2 Animated Shorts, DVD Copy
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 7.1), English (Dolby Digital EX 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital EX 5.1), French (Dolby Digital EX 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.39
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C
THE MOVIE – 2.5/5
In the last 15+ years, Pixar has basically been bulletproof releasing hit after hit from both critics and audiences with what’s considered their weakest release being 2006’s Cars. Well, for whatever reason the powers-that-be decided one of their top priority projects in the Pixar line-up, along with Toy Story 3 which was released last year – and received the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature – was Cars 2. As much as I enjoyed the first movie, I also felt it didn’t have the same magic as their previous endeavors. It doesn’t bode well with this sequel and, when the poor reviews started rolling in, I wasn’t surprised.
The movie begins with a James Bond-inspired opening signaling the direction this sequel is taking. In it, a spy car named Finn McMissle (MICHAEL CAINE) has infiltrated an oil rig where the bad guys… err… cars have gathered. He’s caught but makes a daring escape using some nifty spy tools (underwater propellers, detached tires to make it look like he drowned, etc) and the case is on as McMissle needs to find out what they’re up to.
Cars 2 this time around for some odd and insane reason centers on the rust bucket tow truck, Mater (LARRY THE CABLE GUY) as his best friend and world renowned race car Lightning McQueen (OWEN WILSON) invites Mater to accompany him in a three country World Grand Prix race sponsored by Sir Miles Axelrod (EDDIE IZZARD), developer of a new alternative fuel called “Allinol” (get it?) for which an organization called “The Lemons” will do anything to stop the company from gaining success because.. um… it really doesn’t matter, does it?
Now, back to Mater, after embarrassing McQueen, he inadvertently comes in the middle of two Lemons trying to kill a spy who is set to rendezvous with McMissle and rookie agent Holley Shiftwell (EMILY MORTIMER) to exchange top secret information. Knowing he’s about to be compromised, the other spy car manages to slip the important information to Mater. Of course, in the old mistaken identity, McMissle believes Mater is their contact and worse yet, the bad cars have targeted him as well. Yada, yada, yada, we get some chase scenes through the streets of a variety of cities, McQueen and Mater get into a fight after Mater cost McQueen a race (against egotistical Italian racer Francesco Bernoulli voiced by JOHN TUTURRO) and Mater himself gets further embroiled into a plot with grand implications that could cost the life of McQueen! Will he save the day despite his shortcomings? Well, it is Disney after all.
Ok, of all the Pixar films, the first Cars wasn’t exactly my favorite. It had some charm for sure and getting the voice talent of Paul Newman opposite a comparatively young pup of Owen Wilson was a good clash and made for good storytelling, but it never fulfilled that edge of heart and soul that other Pixar films had going for them. With Cars 2, it has the same limited heart and then they added in a sprinkling of annoyance and borderline obnoxiousness to the mix. For the record, I don’t mind the Mater character but, like his voice-sake, only in small doses.
Another issue I had with Cars 2 wasn’t just making Mater into the main character but relegating Wilson’s McQueen to secondary status (probably the fourth most important character behind Mater, McMissle and Shiftwell). I know McQueen’s storyline was already done in the first film and Owen Wilson’s cadence isn’t exactly endearing, surely they could’ve come up with SOMETHING, right?
Besides the switch in roles, there was also a switch in messages. In Cars, we see McQueen at the beginning as an arrogant and self centered race car but by the end, he learns an important lesson and changes for the better. However, the message in Cars 2 is, after the badgering (often rightly so) that Mater takes for being a “fool”, what we learn at the end is it’s OK to be yourself. I guess the caveat there is, if you’re a loving person with redeeming traits… This isn’t as big of a deal for me, but something that stuck out and was at best weak and at worst downright lazy writing.
I give director and co-writer John Lasseter all the credit in the world. He’s an important reason why Pixar has been so successful for so long helming two Toy Story movies and giving the Pixar brand a golden shield. I also appreciate his enthusiasm for the Cars movies taking inspiration from a family trip but enthusiasm isn’t enough to make a good movie. Unlike some, I don’t think Lasseter has “sold out”, yes doing a Cars 2 was a mistake but I don’t believe he was doing it for the money but felt he had a good story to tell and hoped it would translate to the masses which, given the box office haul, it did not (no doubt Disney-Pixar made a decent profit, though thanks to the overseas market).
In the end, Cars 2 is proof that no studio is perfect and they all have missteps and hopefully this will be Pixar’s only one for the next 10 years. When it comes to the movie itself, there is some charming moments but they are too far and between and usually interrupted by Mater’s annoying persona. The animation at least is good and there are some creative moments in the story.
The Blu-ray comes in a standard HD slim case with a glossy slip cover.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.0/5
Disc 1 (BD):
Director’s Commentary – Co-Writer/Director John Lasseter (who does most of the talking) and Co-Writer/Co-Director Brad Lewis provide a very professional and low-key feature commentary providing info on the story, animation, characters, etc. I don’t know if it’s just their personalities, but for a commentary on a kids movie, it could’ve been lighten up a bit.
Cars Toon: “Air Mater” (5:25; HD) – If you didn’t get enough of Mater in the movie, now he has another short where the tow truck takes flying lessons. Wait, I could’ve sword I said this already… 2D version of the short.
Hawaiian Vacation (5:53; HD) is a cool theatrical short featuring our favorite cast from Toy Story as their owner goes on vacation while they stay at home, much to the disappointment of Ken and Barbie. However, they band together to give them a Hawaiian vacation.
Disc 2 (DVD):
This disc contains “Air Mater” Short, Hawaiian Vacation Short and the Director’s Commentary.
VIDEO – 5.0/5
Cars 2 is presented in 2.35:1 on a 50GB disc. Look, what are you expecting? Pixar + Blu-ray = Fantastic. In 2D, it becomes a bit obvious this film was intended to be seen in 3d. Thankfully, for the group of viewers who will be watching this (kids), they probably won’t know or even care. My nephew watched this film 10 times in three days in 2D and didn’t even bother to ask to watch the 3D version. With 2D, you’re still getting some top notch picture quality which will rival nearly any release this year.
AUDIO – 5.0/5
Disney has included an English 7.1 DTS MA Track for this release. Mirroring by above comments, Audio Quality is perfect. It’s getting harder and harder to write Picture and Audio Quality reviews for Pixar titles as it can easily just be a copy/paste job. Everything here sounds absolutely wonderful. At best, it might be a bit too loud for the kids (engines roaring), but hey, will they even notice?
OVERALL – 3.25/5
Overall, Cars 2 is proof that no studio is perfect and they all have missteps and hopefully this will be Pixar’s only one for the next 10 years. When it comes to the movie itself, there is some charming moments but they are too far and between and usually interrupted by Mater’s annoying persona.
Brian Oliver/Brad Lowenberg
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2.