Cars 2 (2011)

Author Clayton Crooks
Sun 26 Jun 11
/ 5

After hearing some early reviews, it made me wonder if this will this be the year that someone other than Pixar manages to win an Oscar for best animated film. The latest Pixar movie sequel, following last year's amazingly popular and billion dollar hit "Toy Story 3", is "Cars 2". While it's a good film, if the competition is as tough as it has been in the last couple of years with movies like "How to Train Your Dragon", could this be the year that another studio manages to top Pixar who has had bascically a perfect track record with 11 feature-length movies? After watching "Cars 2", I'm not so sure I'd bet against Pixar.

"Cars 2" adopts an international flavor for the sequel and is again based around the adventures of Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) and Tow Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy). The movie attempts to offer a storyline for many of the original "Cars" characters, but unfortunately it doesn't really pull this off. The only character that gets any real story is Mater -- even Lightning McQueen is mostly left on the outside looking in with a supporting role.

The movie begins with Lightning McQueen being invited to participate in a Grand Prix event that kicks off in Tokyo before moving on to Europe. In Europe, there are to be three separate races that will take place in Rome, Paris and London. Mater tags along, and his redneck behavior is annoying to McQueen who mostly tries to ignore his friend while concentrating on his races.

Mater is mistaken for a secret agent by actual Brittish operatives Finn McMissile (voiced by Michael Caine) and Holly Shiftwell (voiced by Emily Mortimer) who are investigating global oil supplies. Finn McMissile is obviously based on James Bond and is a fully tricked-out 1964 Aston Martin DB5. If McMissile is James Bond, Mater is more like Austin Powers. He bumbles and stumbles along and brings some obvious comedy to the film. He is undoubtedly the star of the movie.

The animation is once again top-notch. Pixar manages to do a remarkable job of not throwing too many special effects our way and much of the beauty of their work is in the subtle details. These details can be missed rather easily. Things like the ocean waves in a stormy sea or the detailed Tokyo skyline that you'll see in Cars 2 are small but very important elements.

You need to watch for the easter eggs as Pixar manages to always hide a few. Some are obvious, such as the movie being played at the Radiator Springs drive-in is "The Incredimobiles", an obvious reference to "The Incredibles". Others are very difficult to spot like Lightning McQueen's "Lightyear" tires referencing "Toy Story" character Buzz Lightyear. A113 is also back. If you are unfamiliar with A113, it is an homage to a classroom at CalArts, the alma mater of Pixar/Disney executive John Lasseter and director Brad Bird.

One of the things that makes Pixar movies so incredibly popular are that the stories seem to keep both children and adults entertained. The only exception to the rule was the first "Cars" movie which often scored lower (although still very good) reviews than the other Pixar offerings. Cars 2 feels much the same as younger viewers will probably enjoy it more than the adults. It's hard not to evaluate "Cars 2" on Pixar standars, but it's really not fair to do that. Even if you put "Cars" to at or near the bottom of a Pixar list, it's still a very good movie and worth seeing.

Cars 2 Trailer

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Cars 2 Cast

Star race car Lightning McQueen and his pal Mater head overseas to compete in the World Grand Prix race. But the road to the championship becomes rocky as Mater gets caught up in an intriguing adventure of his own: international espionage.

Directors: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis

 Writers: Ben Queen (screenplay), John Lasseter (story)

Stars: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy and Michael Caine




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