Disney/Pixar’s 'Cars 2' smokes the first installment with sublime visuals and fast action.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
For all its fast-paced action and fish-out-of-water comedy, the first Cars was one-dimensional and lacked the heart that we’re used to from Disney/Pixar. Cars 2 isn’t going to overwhelm you with its heart either, but its grand scale, humor, visuals and international espionage elements make for a winning combination that is far superior to its predecessor.
Simply put, Cars 2 has more to offer than the 2006 original, and it does everything better. Racecar Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) has won four consecutive Piston Cups, but he’s never faced a challenge as huge as the World Grand Prix: Three races in three cites – Tokyo, err, “Tow-kyo” to use the movie’s vernacular, London and picturesque Porto Corsa, Italy – all using an alternative fuel called Allinol, created by the Richard Branson-type Sir Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard).
Before he leaves, McQueen pays a visit to his adopted hometown of Radiator Springs, says hello to Sally (Bonnie Hunt) and his other old friends, etc. He also takes a pit crew full of Radiator Springs locals with him on the road, including Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), the hick tow truck with a heart of gold.
If this film has a main character it is certainly Mater, not McQueen, which makes sense given how beloved Mater was after the first film. Accordingly, the espionage subplot involves Mater carrying intelligence planted on him by an American spy, and two British spies – the James Bond-esque Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and upstart Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) – are forced to work with Mater to learn the identity of an international criminal. To the story’s credit, it all ties into the drama surrounding the race and builds to a climactic, satisfying finale.
Visually, Cars 2 is absolutely spectacular, with crisp details in all its locations nicely enhanced by the 3D. Whether it’s an oil rig, the race locations or even good ole’ Radiator Springs, each setting bursts with color and life, as if director John Lasseter (Toy Story) wants to leave no doubt about which animation studio is (still) the very best. Also, in addition to cars we also meet boats, planes and other forms of travel (a direct-to-video spinoff called Planes is expected in 2013). And even better, there’s a car in the image of the Pope, Queen of England and more. This movie is worth the 3D up-charge.
As for the action, it’s top-notch. Be it a dramatic escape through the air, on the ground or under the sea, or the race sequences themselves, which involve McQueen and an Italian rival named Francesco (John Turturro), the action is exhilarating and always fun. When this is combined with solid humor and lots of Mater, good things come of it.
As for the film’s heart, there’s a sweet moment in which McQueen remembers Doc Hudson (voiced by Paul Newman in the first film), but otherwise Cars 2 is all about action and visual splendor, and it ably delivers both.
CARS 2 (3) Directed by John Lasseter and Brad Lewis • Starring Michael Caine, Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy • Rated G • At Century Cinemas Del Monte, Maya Cinemas, Northridge Cinemas, Lighthouse Cinemas.