DVD Release Date: November 1, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: June 24, 2011
Rating: G
Genre: Family, Animated, Sequel
Run Time: 107 min.
Directors: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis
Voices by: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Eddie Izzard, John Turturro, Bonnie Hunt

Considering they’ve been in business for 25 years now, Pixar was bound to make a stinker at some point.

While nothing they’ve made has completely flopped, mind you, Cars was about as close as they’d get to wiping out, given just how divided critics and audiences were back in 2006.

Perhaps it was a bit unfair to compare Cars to their previous work in the first place, though. Sure, it wasn’t as inventive as The Incredibles or Toy Story or as inherently memorable and heartwarming as Finding Nemo and later films like Wall-E and Up, but Cars was always the proverbial horse of a different color anyway. More lighthearted and fun than focused on making a serious statement, it was basically the cinematic equivalent of U2 making a dance record.

That said, one can’t help wondering if the Pixar crew is hoping to prove, once and for all, that Cars wasn’t a bad idea by serving up a second installment that outshines the original in every possible way.

In fact, aside from featuring racing hotshot Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris), Lightning’s best friend, Mater, the scene-stealing, oh-so-rusty tow truck (Larry the Cable Guy, Cars) and a few familiar cohorts, there’s little continuity between the two movies. Truth be told, if you happened to miss the first installment, you’ll have absolutely no problem getting up to speed.

This time around, the story begins with Lightning McQueen taking a break from it all. Now a four-time Piston Cup champion, he’s looking forward to some downtime with his girlfriend Sally (Bonnie Hunt, Toy Story 3) and Mater, of course, in their lovely little hometown of Radiator Springs.

Since Lightning is used to life in the fast lane, though, it’s not exactly surprising when his day-to-day routine doesn’t stay low-key for long. After all, when the arrogant Formula One racer Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) boasts that Lightning doesn’t have what it takes to beat him, well, those taunts are impossible to ignore. So before giving it any serious thought, Lightning is off to the World Grand Prix.