PG Cooper: Cars 2 Review

Posted: December 10, 2011 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: June 24th, 2011

Running time: 106 minutes

Story by: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis, and Dan Fogelman

Screenplay by: Ben Queen

Directed by: John Lasseter

Starring: Larry the Cable Guy, Owen Wilson, Michael Caine, and Emily Mortimer

Pixar has become one of the most respected studios in the film world. Ever since Toy Story, the studio has received immense critical praise and all their films make a killing at the box-office. Their last three films especially (Wall-E, Up, Toy Story 3) have become accepted as modern classics. But all of their films have been met with critical love, with few exceptions. One such exception is the 2006 film Cars. While I wouldn’t say it was a critical bomb, it did not receive the rave reviews Pixar was accustom to.  Personally, I wasn’t crazy about Cars. It wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t good either. This didn’t stop the film from making an estimated $8 billion in merchandise. This immense figure is what people speculate is the reason for Cars 2, Pixar’s newest commercial.

The film follows Lightning McQueen and Mater (Owen Wilson and Larry the Cable Guy, respectively) the stars from the first film. McQueen has recently been invited to the first World Grand Prix, hosted by Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard), who is using the race to promote is new earth friendly fuel. Though initially reluctant, McQueen is encouraged by his friends to race and join. His girlfriend coaxes him to bring Mater along. After Mater goes through some awkward hijinks, he finds himself mixed up with international spies Finn McMissile and Holley Shiftwell (Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer, respectively).

I suppose I should start with the story. Surprisingly, the film focuses more on Mater and his spy adventure, with the race being more of a subplot. It’s basically like North by Northwest if all the characters were cars, with a touch of Talladega Nights. I’ll talk more about Mater himself later, for now I just wanna focus on the plot. So Mater becomes involved with these spies. First off, the very notion of these cars being spies is a stupid concept. It’s hard to buy cars being such stealthy infiltrators. The film tries to make this easier to swallow by giving them all these gadgets, but that just makes everything feel stupider. Another thing that bothered me is how McMissile and Shiftwell, two highly accomplished British spies, don’t clue in that Mater isn’t a spy. Hell, Mater tells them, repeatedly, that he isn’t a spy and they still don’t believe him. On top of that, this plot is highly predictable and any adult will be able to predict the villain early on.

While Owen Wilson was the focus of the last Cars, Larry the Cable Guy is undeniably the star here. I don’t know who’s idea that was, but they should be fired. To spend an entire film with Mater was torture. He’s a bumbling idiot, and not once did he make me laugh. What’s worse is the film wants you to sympathize with him just because he has good intentions. Owen Wilson sort of sleep walks through this film. He wasn’t really good, but he was passable. I actually found myself wanting a lot more of his character though just because I was getting so sick of Mater. Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer are both fine in their parts. They might have had fun doing the film, but it’s clear they did this film for the money, nothing else. The rest of the cast play their parts mostly as racial stereotypes.

Cars 2 is sort of stuck between being way too kiddish for older audiences, but too violent for young children. Now this may come off as hypocritical from me given how I grew up on action films like Indiana Jones and Die Hard. But my parents knew what they were letting me watch when I saw films like that. Those movies were appropriately rated and my parents trusted I was mature enough to handle what I was about to watch. Cars 2 is a G rated film which features guns, explosions, chases, characters getting hurt, and shockingly enough, death. Yes, a character in this film is tortured to death by the villain. Yet this action won’t entertain older audiences because there is no real consequences in any of these action scenes. Despite the violence, there isn’t a lot of payoff. On top of that, you don’t care about any of these characters so you don’t get into these scenes.

One thing Pixar is none for is making these amazing worlds. From the toys in Toy Story, to the bugs in A Bug’s Life, to the monsters in Monster’s Inc. I always enjoy spending time in these worlds, with the exception of the world in Cars and Cars 2. The world of Cars 2 just feels lazy to me. The writers basically said, “You know what be great? If the planet was inhabited entirely by cars!” The problem is cars don’t have hands, which makes interacting with our world difficult. But instead of creating an entirely new world, they just took all the people out of the real world. Buildings still have doors, there’s still buttons, they drink out of regularly sized glasses. Wouldn’t these cars design the world so it be easier to interact with? There’s no sign of non-vehicle life in this world. Or maybe there is? Early on there’s a conversation where dinosaurs are mentioned. Dinosaurs existed in this world? Were they car-like dinosaurs or legit dinosaurs? If legit, how many other organic creatures survived in this world? If there were humans, that would explain why their world resembles ours so much. If there was, one exactly did the human beings disappear, and why? Did the cars systematically eliminate all of them? If so, why aren’t we seeing that film. Now you could read this and say I’m reading to much into it, but that’s my point. This is a lazy world where no thought what into it beyond if cars dominated the planet.

Of all the film’s weaknesses, the biggest is the script. I’ve already talked about how insanely stupid I find the story, but the problems go deeper than that. The dialogue in this film is horrible. There’s a lot of idiotic lines about friendship, making mistakes, understanding each other, and being yourself. Just because the film is written for children doesn’t mean it needs to be written by children. This also the least funny Pixar film I’ve seen. Despite being kids films, Pixar films usually really crack me up. With Cars 2, not a chuckle was found, though there was plenty of groaning. Another thing that really irks me about this film is the message at the heart of it. The film is trying to say that you should be proud of who you are. That’s a fine albeit simple message, and something I’m not oppose to kids hearing. But that’s only what the film is trying to say. What it actually says is that you’re free to do whatever you want whenever you want and if somebody doesn’t like it, they need to change. Sorry, but I have a huge problem with kids getting that message. Kids need to know that sometimes they need to adapt. That you’re free to be who you want to be, but there are certain times where you need to follow certain rules.

Pixar has films I don’t like, the original Cars being among them. But even that film had some heart and integrity. If you put a lot of hard work into a film and it isn’t good, at least you put effort in, and it’ll likely show. That’s what really makes Cars 2 a failure. It’s not just that it’s bad, but also that it is incredibly lazy. This just feels like a cheap cash grab. And this is coming from a studio that prided itself on the integrity of their films. This isn’t as good as other animated films this year such as Rango or Batman: Year One. Hell, this isn’t even as good as Rio. I’m still really looking forward to Pixar’s next film Brave, but they really let me down on this one.

Rating: F


  1. ianthecool says:

    I like this review, especially the part about the lazy world. Some interesting foo for thought there.
    I don’t think anyone expected Cars 2 to be much of a critical success, but hopefully it remains just a hiccup.

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