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Review: 'Cars 2' misses the mark by a mile

June 27, 2011 - Erin O'Neill
*Warning: May contain spoilers.

Anyone who has little children or is a big child at heart is familiar with the Pixar film “Cars” — and has most likely memorized lines from the movie by osmosis due to it being in the DVD player constantly.

Even if you’re not to the point of quoting Larry the Cable Guy as Mater, surely you’ve been bombarded with the toys, cereal, lunchboxes, pillows, Snuggies, video games and on and on and on... “Cars” is the story of egotistical racecar Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) who finds himself splat in the middle of BFE on his way to a big race and even bigger corporate sponsorship. Along the way, he has adventures, flirts with the strong-yet-weak-in-the-knees Porsche in distress disguised as an attorney, and discovers the meaning of friendship through tractor tipping with a rusty hillbilly tow truck.

The graphics, back in the day, were second to none. The story was actually really cute and poignant. The moral: True friends can come in all shapes, sizes and IQs. Fast-forward five years later. Technology is, frankly, out of control. Everything is 3-D this and 3-D that. Which is exactly why I chose to see “Cars 2” in 2-D. Or as I like to call it, normal vision. While watching the film, I could definitely see what parts would probably pop in 3-D — the racing segments were spectacular, lifelike almost. On the other hand, the scenes were so spectacular in 2-D, I wondered what would be the purpose of seeing them in 3-D. Those glasses look silly anyway. But I digress...

The story in “Cars 2” is convoluted to say the least, especially given the theater I was in was filled with toddlers and grade schoolers, many of whom couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to the 50-foot screen in front of them and preferred rather to scream and cry. Ah, the joys of paying 20 bucks to see a children's movie. Seriously parents, get a clue. Again, I’m veering off track (no pun intended). So we find our heroes back in Radiator Springs at the start of the film, McQueen is off for some much needed R&R, to hang with his girlfriend Sally (Bonnie Hunt) and best bud, Tow Mater. It seems as if, despite what McQueen learned in the first film about best friends and all, Mater has been purposely left out of the last four years of Piston Cup racing — as an aside it’s now known as the Hudson Hornet Piston Cup in honor of the late “Doc” Hudson, voiced in the original by the late, great Paul Newman. No mention of the passing of the just as great, George Carlin, however, who voiced Fillmore the VW van in the first movie. There’s just some other dude trying to sound like him. But anyway...

So after Mater opens his big, nincompoop mouth in an effort to save Lightning’s street cred, the two are off to Europe and Asia for the World Grand Prix, sponsored by Allinol, an alternative fuel and a lame attempt by Pixar to get all political and preachy. From here on out, “Cars 2” should be called the Mater Show because the focus is mostly on the tow truck’s accidental involvement in a game of international espionage. While adults might enjoy the nod to James Bond and his gadgets and appreciate the smooth British stylings of Michael Caine, the voice of Finn McMissile (read: miss-I-uhl), if you’re like me and can only take so much “Git R Done,” you’re in for a long haul.

Kids likely won’t care as much since Mater has kind of become the spin-off star of the eleventy trillion dollar franchise (did anybody bother to tell poor Owen Wilson?) But, frankly, I’d be more interested in, say, how Flo and Ramone came to be married. How did I miss that? Another issue for me, aside from Mater overkill, is, well, all the killing. Or allusion to killing, shooting, blowing things up. It’s a little too violent in my opinion and I’m certainly not one to shy away from a good blood and guts action flick or Mafia-style gangland beatdown. But it’s rated G. Yeah, yeah I get that a lot of Disney flicks contain violence, “Bambi,” “The Lion King,” etc. But not gatling guns and bombs and terrorists and torture. And while it makes sense to adults to incude all this because of the spy storyline, it’s mostly lost on children who are predominently there to see what their old buddies have been up to. To them, even to my nearly 6-going-on-14-year-old movie companion, it’s all too scary.

I am a Pixar fan for sure. “Toy Story 3” was amazing; “Up” was a masterpiece; Heck, I even learned to like “The Incredibles” after a while (I also thought it was a bit too grown up for the wee ones who are clamoring for all the merchandise). Whatever “Cars 2” was trying to do — appeal more to the parents who are dragged along, make some kind of socio-political statement, get Larry the Cable Guy in the running for an Oscar (did I just type that?), it misses the mark by a mile.

But if the little one in your life is determined to see this film come Hades or high water, use discretion, keep an eye out for Prince Wheeliam and The Queen, and keep reminding yourself, at least it isn’t “Mr. Popper’s Penguins."

 
 

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Blog Photos

Lightning McQueen and Mater the tow truck incognito, in “Cars 2”.