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. – $49.99 | November 1, 2011
Directed by: John Lasseter
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, Featurettes, 2 Animated Shorts, Blu-ray Copy, DVD Copy, Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 5
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 3D Blu-ray set comes in a Blu-ray Keep Case (thicker than a standard case) and a glossy slip cover with a lenticular on the front.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.25/5
Disc 1 (3D BD):
Cars Toon: “Air Mater” 3D (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.
Disc 2 (2D 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 3 (BD):
With this disc, you go all around the world to check out the features. Well, you go on a CGI map and select locations including The Pacific, Emeryville, Radiator Springs, London, Paris, Munich, Prague, Porto Corsa and Tokyo. Frankly, having all the featurettes in one place would’ve been preferable, but whatever.
Sneak Peek: The Nuts & Bolts of Cars Land (6:47; HD) is an inside look at an upcoming attraction at Disney Land Resort (set to open in 2012) hosted by John Ratzenberger.
A few of the locations has an Interactive Art Gallery.
– The Pacific (TRT 7:57):
Somewhere in the Pacific (3:34; HD) – This featurette goes through the effects used for the movie’s opening sequence which was difficult since it takes place over the open ocean. It’s certainly interesting to see the process of the different layers of the effects.
Making Lemon-Aides (4:02; HD) covers the process of choosing the right vehicles to be a part of the Lemon organization.
Oil Derrick Set Exploration (0:21; HD) is a short feature that spins around the oil derrick. That’s it…
– Emeryville (TRT 19:43):
Motorama (7:40; HD) is a car show created by a Pixar employee for Pixar employees where they can show off their classic and even sleek vehicles. Car enthusiasts might find this fascinating, for me its sleep inducing.
He Lives! Making the Finn McMissile Toy (3:48; HD) shows off how they took Finn from animation to toy form because he’s such a cool spy car.
Animation Pit Stop (4:17; HD) – This featurette takes a look at the variety of vehicles used in the races and in the film as a whole. There’s nothing here but the cars showing off for the camera. I think this was shown in theaters…
Last is the US Domestic Teaser (1:26; HD) and the US Domestic Trailer (2:32; HD).
– Radiator Springs (TRT 10:09):
Tall Tale Deleted Scene (3:35; HD) – This scene was cut from the film that was made to open the movie.
The Origins of Cars 2 (6:04; HD) – Want to know how this film came to be and hose bright idea it was? Find out within. Or read on and discover that this was at least partially the brainchild of John Lasseter.
Radiation Springs Set Exploration (0:30; HD) is the same deal as the one for the oil derrick set.
– London (TRT 14:04):
Brawl at Big Bentley (5:28; HD) – This featurette showcases the scenes taking place in London, the cars seen in the city and designing it all.
Spyified (6:27; HD) is focused on the spy subgenre at the center of Cars 2. John Lasseter and company explain what encompasses a good spy movie and coming up with the cars/weapons.
Spy Training: London (0:47; HD) is a waste of time short shows off the “stealth” technique for Mater. I honestly have no idea what this is for…
This section includes the set explorations for Big Bentley (0:12; HD), Tower Bridge (0:09; HD), The London Eye (0:17; HD) and Buckingham Palace (0:12; HD). There’s also the UK Trailer (0:32; HD).
– Paris (TRT 12:03):
Paris Race Deleted Scenes (6:00; HD) – This scene involves an endurance race that didn’t make it into the final picture. Good thing, as poor as the movie might’ve been, this was even worse.
Streets of Paris (4:32; HD) – Here we get the Pixar crew talks about developing the designs for Paris and “Carsication”-ing it. Like the others, it’s straight forward and doesn’t really offer much insight.
Spy Training: Paris (0:43; HD) – See the London one.
Set Explorations: Arc de Triomphe (0:17; HD), Eiffel Tower (0:12; HD) and Paris Market (0:19; HD).
– Munich (TRT 9:06):
Germany Deleted Scene (2:37; HD) – This is another race removed from an already too long movie. While it’s not a bad scene, it was unnecessary.
Oktoberfest Deleted Scene (4:23; HD) is similar in that it would’ve added very little to the film and is an alternate to the Tokyo opening as they eventually went with.
There’s also a really short bit entitled Mater-Hosen (0:10; HD) and the German Trailer (1:56; HD).
Prague Chase Alternate Opening (2:58; HD) – This is a scene that was retooled for the movie. Again, this is nothing earth-shattering.
– Porto Corsa (TRT 12:41):
Finding Porto Corsa (7:32; HD) explains how they came up with the creation of this city that is similar to Monte Carlo. The reason they did this is so it could accomplish what they needed to do in the story.
The Heart of Italy (4:16; HD) covers the set art design for the small Italian town used in the film.
The rest in this section includes a pointless bit called International Insurance (0:17; HD), Set Explorations for Uncle Topolino’s Square (0:17; HD) and Porta Corsa (0:19; HD).
– Tokyo (TRT 18:05):
Tokyo Race: Lap One Extended Scene (3:15; HD) is just a longer scene from what we see in the film and it includes an optional commentary with three members of the technical crew.
Mater Takes Tokyo (4:54; HD) is a featurette on how the people in Pixar wanted to play up the fish out of water aspects of placing Mater in a foreign city as well as the animators trying to convey the brightness and strangeness into the movie.
Many Nations, One Race (7:07; HD) covers the creation of the different race cars competing in the World Grand Prix.
Finally, there’s Spy Training: Tokyo (0:43; HD), the Japanese Trailer (2:06; HD) and a Set Exploration for the Museum (0:12; HD).
Rundown opinion on these features: Although there is over 100-minutes worth of features on this disc, good portions are deleted scenes and short bits and what we do get of actually featurettes is superficial. I’m not sure why they went this route rather than doing one long featurette and put all the others in their own submenus as navigating through is a bit of a pain.
Disc 4 (DVD):
This disc contains “Air Mater” Short, Hawaiian Vacation Short and the Director’s Commentary.
Disc 5 (Digital Copy):
This disc you use with a unique code to download onto your computer, iPod, iPad or other compatible devices.
VIDEO – 5.0/5
Cars 2 3D is presented in 2.35:1 on a 50GB Disc. Look, what are you expecting? Pixar + Blu-ray = Fantastic. That trend continues here with Cars 2 3D. This movie looks nothing but perfect – literally being 3D in nearly every scene. Candy-coated, bright neon colors…it’s all here. Once again, a Pixar film shows us how to do right on 3D.
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.
The Movieman/Brad Lowenberg