Monday, June 27, 2011

The Cars 2 Review

Its hard to know how I should feel about Pixar's latest, "Cars 2"... is it weird that an animated film can leave me so conflicted?

Here's the plot... "Cars 2" picks up where "Cars" left off... Lightning McQueen is off racing, winning multiple Piston Cups, and returns to Radiator Springs to his girlfriend Sally and his best buddy Mater, along with the rest of the gang from the first film, like Ramone, Flo, Red, Sarge, Fillmore and the others... wisely, Pixar chose not to replace Paul Newman as the voice of Doc Hudson, instead just giving the Hudson Hornet a glance and homage.

Finn and Mater... I've read the thoughts that Mater might be Pixar's
version of Jar Jar Binks... a much maligned characters that has somewhat
sullied a great movie series--or in Pixar's case, their movies in general
Through a wacky set of circumstances, McQueen ends up entered into the inaugural World Grand Prix, and brings along his "team", which includes Mater, and through an even wackier set of circumstances, Mater gets confused for an American spy by the good guys like Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) and the bad guys, like Professor Z (Thomas Kretschmann).

So over the next 90 minutes, we are treated to a visually colorful and dazzling adventure full of explosions and big ships and crazy cars and fast racing and cool gadgets and funny sight gags and foreign lands and all that kind of stuff. 

What we aren't treated to is a great movie.  Its a fun movie, its a pleasant, amusing movie, but not a great movie.  This will, in my mind, go down as Pixar's worst film, and though the general consensus is that Pixar can do no wrong, this one is hard to defend.  If anything, Pixar's record is 11-1, or at best, 11-0-1... which, in of itself is still a stellar mark.

Don't get me wrong... I liked this movie.  Its got that Pixar flair with the jokes flying fast and free, and sight gags everywhere--watch the drive-in movie sign in Radiator Springs not long after McQueen makes his return... and its fun watching the change of cultures from a car's perspective when they tour Japan (the Japanese game show is a hoot) and other countries.
And cars "die" in this movie!  I mean, I hope I'm not spoiling anything for you, but seriously, there are at least four or five car deaths in this film, which is a bit... well, I say violent, but we're talking about cars being blown up, so judge that how you will.

Its the story, the kind that Pixar usually excels at telling, that is the weakest part of the film.  I found myself wondering if a six year old kid could follow all that was happening, and even if those kids would understand why the bad guys--Gremlins, Pacers and other "lemons"--were the bad guys... I mean, what kid under 15 knows what a "lemon" is?  I also found myself ready for the movie to be over towards the end, something I'm not sure I've ever felt in a Pixar film. 

Here's my conflict... what am I supposed to expect out of Pixar? I have been taught to expect masterful story telling like "Wall*E"... I have been taught to expect movies for children that are still made for adults, like "Monsters Inc"... I now expect to have toys make me tear up, like in "Toy Story 3"... but do I expect that because Pixar told me "We are going to make the best animated films you have ever seen in your whole life!"

John Turturro voices Francesco Bernoulli, McQueen's main rival.  Having
worked at The Happiest Place in the Mall for a time, all I could think
was "Wow, are they going to release a billion new Cars toys for this"
No, I expect such things from Pixar because that's just what they do. But this time around, it seems like they are just having a good time... they aren't trying to win the Oscar for Best Animated Film (at least I hope not, because it won't happen this time), it seems like they are just having a good time. And out of any studio out there, Pixar deserves to have a good time, at least once, and do a movie that is just full of goofiness and silliness and fun.

A few years back, when the rumor that "Cars 2" was being made, The Disney Channel released a number of "shorts" starring Mater, called "Mater's Tall Tales".  They all centered around Mater telling his friends stories, or tales, about his misadventures, the "tall" part coming in because he's exaggerating... Mater told of his adventures as a stunt daredevil, and as a fire truck, and as a matador (Materdor!)... after "Cars 2" ended, I looked over at The Lovely Steph Leann and said, "This was like a very long episode of Mater's Tall Tales".

I know, I know, I seem so up and down about it... I guess I'll say this about "Cars 2".  Don't expect "Toy Story 3", or "The Incredibles" or even "Finding Nemo"... expect a fun movie, one that is kind of forgettable.  Expect your sons to love the crap out of it, expect your daughters to... well, did she like this first one?  She will probably like this one.  Did you like the first one?  Yeah, you'll probably enjoy this one as well.

Oh, finally, if you don't like Larry the Cable Guy, you will have a hard time with this one, because Larry is all up in this film, pretty much from start to finish. 

2D or 3D?  Go 2D.  The only reason to see this in 3D is to see the Pixar trailer for the 2012 movie "Brave", which you can find online, and the 3D trailer for the upcoming "The Lion King in 3D" release.  I still say go see it in 2D, save your money.

Formerly known as "The Bear & the Bow", Pixar introduces its first fairy tale, "Brave".  And it looks amazing.

Worth the price of admission, in 2D or 3D, is the Toy Story short, "Hawaiian Vacation", coming on before "Cars 2"... when Barbie & Ken miss their trip to the Hawaiian islands, Buzz, Woody and the gang step in to give them the de facto vacation of a lifetime... and if you liked this one, then you'll be happy to know that there will be another Toy Story short in front of "The Muppets", coming this Thanksgiving.

And, you heard it here first... Tom Hanks says "Toy Story 4" is in the works.  Not sure how I feel about that, but until "Cars 2", Pixar has never given me a reason to worry.  Truthfully, I'm not worried.

The Summer of Blogging Day Twenty Five 

1 comment:

  1. As long as a 2 1/2 year old boy will "love the crap out of it" that's all I need to know!


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