Critics Consensus: Cars 2 is Stuck in Neutral

Plus, Bad Teacher doesn't quite pass the test.

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This week at the movies, we've got animated autos (Cars 2, with voice work from Owen Wilson and Larry the Cable Guy) and execrable educators (Bad Teacher, starring Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake). What do the critics have to say?

Cars 2

39%

Pixar's output has been so good for so long that it seemed unfathomable that one of the studio's films would get a less-than-rapturous response from critics. Well, all good things must come to an end, and that now includes Pixar's streak of Certified Fresh releases; critics say Cars 2 looks fantastic, but the studio's trademark storytelling prowess and character development is MIA here, and the result is a decent animated feature that must count as a big disappointment, given the standards that Pixar has set for itself. This time out, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is off to a big international race with his best buddy Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) in, ahem, tow. Soon, though Mater finds himself in the middle of a secret espionage mission. Will he still be able to help Lightning in his quest to be the fastest car in the world? The pundits say Cars 2 is visually delightful, but its plot is uninspired, and it's over reliant on gags and shtick instead of an interesting story. (Check out this week's Total Recall, in which we run though Pixar's filmography in chronological order.)

Bad Teacher

45%

There's no shortage of tasteless Hollywood comedies in the world, but it's rare that a movie gets criticized for not being tasteless enough. However, such is the case with Bad Teacher, which critics say has moments of raunchy hilarity but doesn't quite fulfill its outrageous premise. Cameron Diaz stars as Elizabeth, a boozy, wildly inappropriate middle school teacher who's looking for a sugar daddy so she can leave her job behind. Elizabeth falls for a hunky substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake), but she's got a rival for his affections, and soon, her scheming and bad behavior starts to affect the whole school. The pundits say Bad Teacher benefits from a sharp performance from Diaz, but it sags in spots, and it's never quite as wild and transgressive as it should be.

Also opening this week in limited release:

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