I have made no secret throughout my entire career of reviewing movies of my glowing opinion of the Pixar animation studio. Every time I am dubious as to whether or not their newest project will have the impact of the others, I am once again surprised with just how amazing they can be.
However, after "Up" they announced they were going to do a rash of sequels over the coming years. Luckily, the first was "Toy Story 3" and we all know how that turned out. However, the second was "Cars 2," a sequel to a Pixar movie that I gave a good review, but admitted that it wasn't their best work. Keep in mind I said this before the releases of "Wall-E", "Up" and "Toy Story 3" which set the bar outrageously high.
So as the film came closer and closer to release, I became more and more worried. The original "Cars" wasn't all that spectacular back when it first came out. How would it fair after all these years of outrageous success? I'm going to give you the bad news now. The answer is: not all that well. It would be unfair to call "Cars 2" a bad movie, but from Pixar, the studio that has defined animation for well over a decade, this is a massive disappointment. We'll get to that later, though.
Despite having top billing and being at the center of the poster, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) isn't really the main character of this film. No, sadly the focus this time is on Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) who follows Lightning to a race overseas and is somehow swept up into a really convoluted and stupid story of international car espionage. So yeah, it's the clichéd, cookie cutter story of the inept bumbling screw-up who suddenly ends up a spy. Isn't that grand?
Anyway, the whole thing ends up being some sort of conspiracy to discredit alternative fuels and promote big oil, so this film has the dubious honor of taking an issue I actually agree with, and somehow managing to annoy me with its inclusion into the film because it's delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Lightning somehow gets wrapped up with the alternative fuel scheme during the race, so they can claim this is a sequel and not just a god awful Mater spin-off. Anyway, everything that you expect happens, kids leave the theater and go buy toys, Pixar gets money. The end.
Now I may seem over vitriolic about this to you, but that's because I honestly thought Pixar was above this kind of practice. Churning out a lazy product for ticket sales and toys just hasn't been their style. With their previous films, they were committed to excellence, producing a product that not only appealed to kids, to but to adults as well. Film were lauded by critics and won Oscars. "Cars 2" is no better than films like "Rio" which I take to task for not being as good as Pixar, and that's a depressing thing to see.
The animation is still top quality. I cannot fault them for that. Then again, the Pixar animators have always been great. It's the story they chose this time that was the mistake. Frankly, in addition to "Cars" not being all that strong a franchise to begin with, the idea to shift the focus to the sidekick character was simply a bad idea.
Some people still like Larry the Cable Guy. Most people don't. The whole Blue Collar comedy thing had a big year in the early 2000s, but then most people forgot about it. The same way people forgot about Carrot Top. Most comedians are flashes in the pan, and Larry the Cable Guy is no exception. It doesn't help that almost all of the characters from the old film have very minor roles. Again, it feels like a spin-off, rather than an actual sequel.
"Cars 2" is not a terrible movie. It is, however, the worst thing Pixar has ever made. It is a standard, run-of-the-mill animated movie that doesn't even seem like Pixar made it. Frankly, they're better than this and they don't deserve the Oscar this year. As of right now, I'd give it to "Rango", which was a much more satisfying animated feature.
My only solace is that Pixar's next project, "Brave," set to come out next year, looks very compelling. The new story shifts the focus to a female lead, forays into the fairy tale genre, and looks like it may be a return to their old quality standards. I know that it's impossible to keep a good thing going forever, but I had rather hoped that when Pixar did finally flounder, it wouldn't be quite this badly.
Entertainment Value: 5