Disney and Pixar return to their strange world of anthropomorphic automobiles in Cars 2. While not as inspired or quite as spirited as their 2006 original, Lightning McQueen, Tow Mater, and the rest of the Radiator Springs gang – plus a few new friends – in an international adventure built for speed first and foremost. While it still managed to burn up the box-office runway this summer, both fans and critics had reservations this time around, making this the first Pixar release to not achieve universal acclaim. Still, with dazzling animation and a great cast leading the way, it’s far from a true disappointment, and will definitely have your wheels and funny bone racing towards the goal – in 3D.
Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) just can’t stay out of trouble and adventure, as they’re right back in the thick of things in Cars 2. The World Grand Prix is set to be the biggest and most prestigious race in the world, and a public challenge by Italian racing champ Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro) is too good for McQueen to pass up. At one of the races in Japan, Mater is mistaken for an undercover American spy Rod “Torque” Redline (Bruce Campbell) by British secret agent superstar Finn McMissile (Michael Caine), leading to a hilarious globe-trotting adventure loaded with conspiracy and high-octane action. The sequel definitely trades in the sweetness of the original for high-wire stunts and explosions, and while this may disappoint those who were hoping for more great buddy-comedy by McQueen and Mater, I think Mater and McMissile make a pretty great team, too.
Fellow reviewer Chris Pandolfi thought the movie was lacking somewhat, and that’s understanable. The tone of the film has certainly shifted into Saturday Morning Cartoon territory, but I still had fun watching. Here’s some of his take on the theatrical version he reviewed back in June, and you can check out his entire review HERE:
“What’s disappointing is that all the technical efforts were applied to a story that anyone can tell. This film could have been an animated spy comedy with human characters, and it would have had more or less the same effect – minus, of course, the tiresome practice of turning names into automotive puns. It might have even worked as a live-action film, although the 3D would have been less effective. Not that it was all that effective in this case. A dream sequence is the only instance in which the process added something extra; the action scenes were a series of quick cuts, so when any close images zooms through the shot, all we see is a blur of motion. Because of Pixar’s track record, I’m confident that Cars 2 is not the beginning of a trend but merely a slight misstep. I anxiously await their next release.”
Disney has been doing a remarkable job on their 3D home video releases, and Cars 2 in 3D is no exception. The high quality Blu-ray transfer is already amazing in itself, but to view it in 3D just takes it to another level. I enjoyed how the 3D was implemented here, as it helps the visuals seem more alive instead of feeling like a tacked-on gimmick. The effect really makes it feel like you’re there racing along with the characters, or getting shot at by missiles, or falling / flying into adventure. And as always, the sound is just as amazing. The 7.1 DTS-HD audio puts you right in the middle of all the action, as every word, engine roar, and explosion comes in perfectly clear.
With all the great Cars action packed in this set, it’s surprising there’s not a lot of special features. There’s audio commentary by John Lasseter, as he goes into the production of the film, and how it came to be. There’s two bonus shorts, Hawaiian Vacation and Air Mater. The first is the short that was shown before the movie in theaters, and features the Toy Story gang helping Barbie and Ken have a pretend vacation when they’re unable to go on a real one. And Air Mater is a fun short about Tow Mater going to a flying school to learn how to fly. Of course, it’s really a shameless plug for Pixar’s upcoming home-video spinoff Planes (set to takeoff in 2013), but it’s still good ol’ Mater fun.
Many folks have said that Cars 2 is their least favorite Disney/Pixar movie, and I can’t blame them. The original had a lot of heart, and this sequel seems happy to trade-in much of that for an explosive, action-adventure that feels more like a real cartoon than animated feature. Not that I have any problem with cartoons, but this can make it feel more automatic than manual, and a lot less consequential than Pixar’s other groundbreaking sequels like the Toy Story films. Still, there’s plenty of fun watching Tow Mater and Finn McMissile traverse the globe, thwarting evil and getting into all kinds of misadventures together. Even a below-average Pixar effort is better than most, and I’m sure families all over will rev up their engines to race to their nearest store to pick up this checkered flag winner.
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Walt Disney Pictures