DVD Release Date: November 1, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: June 24, 2011
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.
Since Mater has always cheered him on from afar in the past, Lightning decides it’s time for him to fully enjoy the spoils of his success. Naturally, it doesn’t take long for Lightning to majorly question his decision, especially when Mater lacks sophistication in fancier locales. As Lightning does his best to distance himself from Mater, however, his trusting friend is unexpectedly thrust into an exotic new world of espionage when he’s mistaken for an American spy in the bathroom.
In the same sort of setup we’ve seen in Bond movies, the stage is set for a fast-paced spy/racing adventure in the opening few scenes. But the connection to Lightning and Mater isn’t established until later, which gives Cars 2 an intriguing air of mystery throughout—even if it’s occasionally too long and complex for the kiddie set.
Despite the more complicated plot, kids and adults alike should still enjoy the fast-paced, thrill-a-minute journey. Not only do the screenwriters seriously kick the action into overdrive, but the eye-popping animation, particularly in capturing the various locales (London, Paris, Tokyo, etc.) also ups the ante significantly.
Unlike its predecessor, the story also has more obvious takeaway value. Not only does Lightning learn that even the coolest of cars shouldn’t leave their friends in the dust, but Mater delivers what’s probably the best lesson of all by choosing not to have his imperfections buffed to perfection when he has the opportunity.
By acknowledging that dents and scars help remind us of where we’ve been in life, Cars 2 basically has a classic Pixar moment by communicating meaningful life lessons in a format that’s not only pure fun but engages the viewer on a far deeper level, too.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Toasting with champagne, social drinking with dinner.
- Language/Profanity: None, although Mater often says “dagnamit” in place of dam-it.
- Sex/Nudity: Flirting, discussion of how “hot” the Italian car is.
- Violence: Some gunfire and danger to cars when they veer off course and crash. They are a few perilous moments, but nothing is overly intense for the younger set.
Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.
For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.