Cars 2 (2011)

Director: John Lasseter
Plot: 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.

Genre: Animation/Adventure/Comedy
Awards: Nom. for 1 Golden Globe - best animated feature.
Runtime: 106min
Rating: G



John Lasseter's Cars 2 is not as disappointing as expected, though together with its prequel, Cars (2006), they represent the weakest points in Pixar's admired filmography over the last fifteen years. I find it curious that Lasseter would want to make a sequel to, of all Pixar films, Cars, a film that despite its fresh and perky concept at the time, remains to be seen trying too hard to impress, while at the same time lacking in the kind of critical appeal that had been lavished on every other Pixar feature in the past. Still, expect an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature for the film, but no guaranteed win this time.

That being said, Cars 2 is actually a quite entertaining film, though I suspect for Pixar that is the minimum prerequisite. The plot is straightforward, focusing on the relationship between Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), the race car, and Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), the rusty tow truck.  A new adventure is in stored for them as they travel halfway around the world to Japan, where the first (out of three) World Grand Prix race is held. However, there seems to be a conspiracy brewing behind-the-scenes regarding a new fuel called Allinol, with Mater unintentionally getting sucked into the whirlwind world of spy action.

The animation is very realistic and colourful, though the movements of the car characters as they speed, fly, and jump from one place to another seem to bend the laws of physics too much. Perhaps this is what makes viewers take the film less seriously, and thus investing less emotional interest in the characters. Unlike the toys in the Toy Story trilogy (1995, 1999, 2010), or the talking robots in Wall-E (2008), both of which have humanized features and adhere to some form of physical logic, cars are difficult to see as humanized as they are known to men for more than a century now as mechanized tools.

One wonders how much effort was put into the animation component of the film, because the end result is stunning, which is thankful because that is probably the film’s biggest strength. Lasseter’s film is inspired by a host of films that make up the subgenre of spy movies, most notably James Bond flicks. One scene in which a car transforms into a mini-submarine is reminiscent of a similar scene in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). Other scenes see cars trying to wriggle their way out of tight situations as the time bomb ticks. It may all look strange to the human eye, but Cars 2 is at the very least a decent family movie that is sprinkled with bots of humour throughout. Kudos to Mater for that.

GRADE: B (7.5/10 or 3.5 stars)

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