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Posted on 6/24/11 11:08 PM
CARS 2 is dazzling, vibrant and visually pleasing, yet, falls short of the emotionally driven narratives that Pixar is known for. Although often considered the weakest of Pixar's films, I always found the original a welcome addition to the Pixar family and CARS 2 is no different. I found it to be quite an entertaining film, but not in par with the rest of Pixar's masterworks. The problem with the film is not its production value, nor its beautifully rendered animation, but that fact that it had so much to measure up to. In the past decade, with each subsequent film, Pixar kept pushing the bar higher in terms of quality and story for not only animated films in general, but also within their own works. So, it comes to no surprise that the expectations for CARS 2 were high.
The film shifts gears from the original formula and exchanges it for an espionage thriller. Although Lightning McQueen makes appearances throughout the film, the main star of this tale is his loveable, hillbilly sidekick Mater (who's full name to my surprise is actually Tow Mater, a pun on the word tomato. Chuckle.) who stumbles upon a conspiracy to discredit a new source of fuel and is mistaken for an American secret agent by Finn McMissile (voiced fantastically by Michael Caine). Now, to be honest this is probably one of the films major flaws, Mater simply does not serve as an entertaining, nor interesting protagonist. His simple minded nature and buffoonish antics wear thin as the film progresses. Yet, Mater is not without his charms, specifically his unquestionable loyalty and friendship to Lightning McQueen. Despite its flaws (which are few) the film still manages to entertain both the young and old, and the espionage story is the best I've seen in any live action film.
Among my peers, many discredit the CARS films as being anything but imaginative or inspiring, mainly because they found it difficult to immerse themselves into a world of living, sentient vehicles. In contrast, I found the world created by these films to be intriguing and a reminder of a simpler time in my youth. By the end of both films I reverted to my childhood, remembering the old DISNEY animated shorts that present similar worlds and characters or when I would pick up my miniature toy cars as I'd make engine sounds with my mouth. Such is the world of CARS, a nostalgic odyssey of childhood memories revolving around automobiles.
Every environment is beautifully detailed and every character is rendered with elegance and grace. But the story lacks the emotional element that was so prevalent on all of Pixar's previous works. In the end, I felt the film didn't deserve the overwhelming negative reviews it has received, the film is good, if not great. Its only fault is, unfortunately, to be a follow up to TOY STORY 3, which was an emotionally charged rollercoaster ride.