Reviewed by: David Criswell, Ph.D.
spies in the Bible
good vs. evil
|Featuring:||Owen Wilson … Lightning McQueen (voice)
Larry the Cable Guy … Mater (voice)
Michael Caine … Finn McMissile (voice)
Joe Mantegna … Grem (voice)
Cheech Marin … Ramone (voice)
Tony Shalhoub … Luigi (voice)
Eddie Izzard … Miles Axlerod (voice)
Emily Mortimer … Holley Shiftwell (voice)
John Turturro … Francesco Bernoulli (voice)
Franco Nero … Uncle Topolino (voice)
John Ratzenberger … Mack (voice)
Brad Lewis (co-director)
|Producer:||Pixar Animation Studios
Walt Disney Pictures
Denise Ream … producer
|Distributor:||Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures|
Also, see our review of the prequel to this film, Cars (2006).
The originals “Cars” film was a true family film. It was a rare film in this generation which lacked even most of the innuendoes found in animated “family” films today. It was inevitable that a sequel would come, but would Cars 2 fall into the pattern of remaking the first film with a few new twists? Could it possibly measure up to the first film? The answer to the first is pleasing. The answer to the second is not.
Although “Cars 2” features the World Grand Prix as its backdrop, the story this time around is not about racing at all. The makers of “Cars 2” instead made a spy parody featuring an Aston Martin voiced by Michael Caine and highlighting “Mator the Tow Truck who is mistaken for an American spy. Mator unwittingly becomes the hero who must save Lightning McQueen and thwart the diabolical plans of… “big oil.” That is right. “Big oil” is the new villain and “Cars 2” is a very political film. Now I will not engage in a political debate about alternative energy and “big oil” but I will ask if a movie review is not the place for a political debate then why is a children’s film? Unfortunately, “Cars 2” does just that. It is the most political children’s movie since “Happy Feet.”
Now, “Cars 2” is entertaining. It is fun, filled with charm, and highlights everybody’s favorite character from the first film, “Mater.” I would not say that the political message is “in your face,” but it is obvious; so obvious that everyone who has ever heard environmentalists conspiracists will know the ending an hour before the “revelation” actually takes place. Personally, I do not mind political opinions in movies per se, and I loved “Wall-E.” “Cars 2” did not offend me, but I did feel that the political subplot was actually a distraction from the film’s spy story. Is “big oil” really the new villain that threatens the world so that the world’s greatest spies must stop it? Okay, the film is about cars, so the tie in is obvious, and for that reason I forgive it.
Politics aside, the film is not much like the original. Whereas the first film was about a taking life a little slower and getting your priorities in order, this film is a full on action spy comedy. Cars are “killed” and murdered. If violence involving cars can be offensive, then some might find this offensive, for there is ample car crashes and diabolical attacks on cars. The cars are equipped with guns, rocket launchers, wings, and everything else one can think of. In terms of sex, there is none, but there are some mild innuendos. With a nod from the Bond films, the female spy is named Holley Shiftwell. Other than this, the film follows Pixar’s tradition of avoiding too many potty jokes, as other animated films have done.
Ultimately, “Cars 2” is so different in tone and pace from the first film that it is hard to gauge. It is an enjoyable film in its own rite, but it is nowhere near as enjoyable as the first movie. At times it feels like a “Mator” short film enlarged into a feature film. It is certainly worth a watch, but the viewer may want to keep his expectations a little lower. If you are not expecting a film like “Cars,” then “Cars 2” may be an enjoyable hour and a half. It will certainly continue Pixar’s streak of hit films, and an impressive list it is. However, as a Pixar film it ranks only above “A Bug’s Life” on my list, but I guess it is hard when you are competing against yourself, for Pixar has made the best family films in Hollywood for over a decade now. I just hope their next effort will be a new story and not another sequel.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.