Sunday, September 04, 2011

Cars 2

Year: 2011
Director: John Lasseter and Brad Lewis
Voice cast: Owen Wilson, Larry The Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer

Plot: Lightning McQueen is invited to participate in the World Grand Prix, where he will go head to head with the best racecars in the world, including the well known F1 car Francesco Bernoulli. Mater, who tags along for the ride, finds himself caught up in international espionage when two British spy cars mistake him for an American spy.

Review: I know most people do not rank Cars as their favourite Pixar film. It's by no means bad, but it simply does not compare to the Toy Story films, Up and Finding Nemo.

But Cars is good on its own, as John Lasseter presents Michael J. Fox's Doc Hollywood storyline in the form of animation, and it works. It may not have the amount of heart the Toy Story films have, but it's still fun to watch.

In Cars 2, Lasseter opts to up the ante on the action. His opinion: why stop at car racing when you can go around the world and do all sorts of action stuff? The result: a nonstop action animation film that takes many cues from James Bond.

What I loved about Cars 2 is the view of the world outside of Radiator Springs. Japan and Italy just look magnificent here. Lasseter is smart to humanise the cars world by making things such as Kabuki cars, sumo cars, toilets for cars etc. The race tracks look great too, especially in Italy, where the waterfront view from the tracks is just beautifully rendered. As far as animation goes, Lasseter has it well covered, even if it's mostly made up of talking cars.

However, Lasseter unwisely chooses to put Mater in the centre of the story this time, relegating Lightning McQueen to a supporting role. If Mater wasn't your favourite car back then, him being the lead car now isn't going to change your mind. Mater starts to get annoying after a while because of his ignorant attitude, though he wisens up at the film's climax, but it's not enough to endear him to the audience.

However, Michael Caine's Finn McMissile, the British spy car, is great. Like a real James Bond car, he has grappling hooks and machine guns to use, and he even becomes a submarine at one point. That's pretty cool. John Turturro is hilarious as McQueen's rival Bernoulli, and his banter with Owen Wilson is good for some laughs.

Other than Mater, the other thing that bugged me a bit was the further lack of a heartwarming story here. Lasseter puts in a lot of action sequences, but no heart and emotion to go with it. There's a subplot about McQueen and Mater's friendship being on the rocks, but it's just that, a subplot. In the first Cars, we at least watched how McQueen learned his lesson about winning a race not being the most important thing. But here, we get no such lesson, thereby making this sequel emotionally hollow.

But is Cars 2 bad? Nah. Not bad. It's rather fun actually. Funny in parts, and rarely boring. It's worth one watch at least. Even if you just want to see the Toy Story short film at the start, stay on for the film and you might enjoy it a bit. (3.5/5)

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