"Cars 2" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
"Cars" was a great Pixar film, with lovable characters and fantastic world-building that really transports the viewer into the film they are watching. Therefore, it prompted Pixar to craft a sequel to their very successful film, basing it off numerous spy-thrillers that have been released throughout the years. In a film that could have worked very well and has an impressive cast of actors playing a great ensemble of characters, "Cars 2" simply doesn't reach the highs that its predecessor does, and is able to obtain some new lows for Pixar as a whole.
Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) has established himself as a very successful racer after the events of the first movie, even going as far as to have a couple of Piston Cups to his name. However, he is ready for this past season to end, so he could spend more time with his friends back at Radiator Springs. Even though Sally (Holly Hunt) is Lightning's significant other, it is undeniable that Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) is the most excited to see his best friend. Perhaps a little too excited, as he is known for taking things above and beyond when Lightning wants some alone time. This is evident when Mater places a call into a newscast, where he tells hotrod Italian racer Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturo) that Lightning can beat him anytime, any place.
This prompts Francesco to challenge Lightning at the World Grand Prix, which was started by former oil tycoon, Sir Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard). When Lightning invites Mater and his friends to go with him, things turn sour between the two friends when Lightning believes Mater is trying to sabotage this tournament. When Mater is defeated and decides to return home, he is suddenly whisked into a huge spy operation, ran by Finn McMissile (Sir Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer), where they must bring down a syndicate that is hellbent on destroying cars using synthetic oil.
The first film had a very simple premise, but built a lot around it. They had to establish this town of Radiator Springs, with its very curious cast of characters. It worked, and very well at that. But with this installment, director John Lasseter just tried way too hard and put too much into it. He wants to focus on the major spy action present, but also keep Lightning and Francesco at the center in their racing storyline too. It's way too convoluted, and therefore just not as fun as it could have been.
Even then, the movie tries to attempt humor while taking itself way too seriously. Mater is a goofy character, and I genuinely enjoyed him very much when watching the first film. But now, they want to take this big goofball and put him in a life-or-death situation, which simply doesn't need to happen. At its core, this is a family film, and it doesn't need to be as dark or complicated as one you would find in a James Bond or Jason Bourne movie, both receiving hard PG-13 ratings for most of their recent outings.
The characters, for the most part, are fine. Many are enjoyable like they were in the first film, and Francesco is genuinely an added bonus. However, the glaring negative present here is Lightning himself. I honestly think the racecar is a bigger jerk here than he was in the first installment. Let's put it in this light - he was cocky and self-centered, and he didn't care about hurting those in Radiator Springs because he genuinely didn't know them. Now, it's been a few years and he has made lasting bonds with everyone in the quaint little town. Therefore, he is unnecessarily mean and hurtful to Mater. Some of the things he does and tells him are perhaps irredeemable at times, but the filmmakers want to patch this all up with a quick "I'm sorry" at the end of the movie? It simply doesn't work, and doesn't redeem the character at the end of this movie.
Larry the Cable Guy is perhaps the best thing about this movie, yet again. He delivers some funny lines, and he is one of the only things that makes this movie somewhat bearable to watch. At the same time, Finn and Holley are pretty fun characters, and I think they're extremely underutilized throughout the movie. I wish we got a little bit more of them as I think Mortimer and Caine deserve much better roles in their Pixar debuts.
This is a pretty disappoint follow-up to a great Pixar film. Sure, the animation is nice and all, but it doesn't save the clunk story from itself. Lasseter and his team do some unforgivable things in the context of this movie, but they want to patch it up with a bandage by the end of the movie. It simply doesn't work, which is a massive shame due to the amount of promise this premise actually had.