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Movie Review

Cars 2

Reviewed by: David Criswell, Ph.D.

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Kids Family
Animation Action Adventure Fantasy Comedy Kids Family Sequel
1 hr. 53 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
June 24, 2011 (wide—3,900+ theaters)
DVD: November 1, 2011
Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures



spies in the Bible

good vs. evil

Kid Explorers
Adventures in the rainforest! Learn about the Creator of the universe by exploring His marvelous creation. Fun for the whole family with games, activities, stories, answers to children’s questions, color pages, and more! One of the Web’s first and most popular Christian Web sites for children. Nonprofit, evangelical, nondenominational.
Featuring: Owen WilsonLightning McQueen (voice)
Larry the Cable Guy … Mater (voice)
Michael CaineFinn McMissile (voice)
Joe Mantegna … Grem (voice)
Cheech MarinRamone (voice)
Tony ShalhoubLuigi (voice)
Eddie IzzardMiles Axlerod (voice)
Emily MortimerHolley Shiftwell (voice)
John TurturroFrancesco Bernoulli (voice)
Franco Nero … Uncle Topolino (voice)
John Ratzenberger … Mack (voice)
more »
Director: John Lasseter
Brad Lewis (co-director)
Producer: Pixar Animation Studios
Walt Disney Pictures
Denise Ream … producer
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Copyrighted, 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.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—I totally enjoyed this movie! My wife and I took all six of our grandchildren to Cars 2 for a fantastic outing. This movie could be enjoyed by folks from 6 to 60. Other than “spy movie” type cartoon violence that might disturb very young children, there was very little negative content. The ideals of good triumphing over evil and the importance of friendships were evident throughout. My favorite quote: “Is the Popemobile Catholic?” Loved it!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Larry Nunnally, age 63 (USA)
Positive—Although I criticize this movie in the following paragraph, please keep in mind that I did enjoy watching it. I was just disappointed in a few things. The whole “spy” storyline was very clever and funny, but I couldn’t help but think that Pixar could have pulled it off with some other mundane object, instead of meshing it with the “Cars” storyline. The tone of this film didn’t fit in with the first one at all, and the performances from old characters seemed a little forced. I never thought I would see the day when a Dreamworks sequel (“Kung Fu Panda”) was better than a Pixar one, but there you go.

This was definitely my least favorite Pixar film. That being said, once you forget the fact that this was a sequel and release it from all your former expectations of Pixar, then this is a very fun movie. And I can certainly see why, after all the emotional turmoil in Up and Toy Story 3, the Pixar folks would want to kick back a little and make something crazy and fun. I just hope they bring their quality back up to par with next year’s movie (and a Scottish fairy tale would have to be REALLY bad in order to disappoint me!).
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Wendy Schwartz, age 19 (USA)
Positive—This was a fun movie! kind of a James Bond feel to it. Amazing scenery! This one was action packed and fun. …Look for the good in this movie, because it’s there. Mater finds that he is really great for who he is and good triumphs. This was so fun and exciting I didn’t even want to take a potty break! If you’re looking for the negative, you’re bound to find it. If you have a fun personality and aren’t legalistic, always looking for something to be wrong, you will really enjoy this movie!!!…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Franny, age 49 (USA)
Positive—I enjoyed this movie with my family. If I had younger children, it might have been a bit intense/scary for them, so keep that in mind. I disagree that this movie was highly political. The point was for certain cars to profit, not to say that alternative fuel actually is good or bad. However, I did notice that there was a message of tolerance. When Mater really messed things up for McQueen because he was careless and not thinking of others, he says sorry. Then McQueen learns to accept Mater for “who he is”.

Thoughtlessness is not something others should just accept about us. We need to learn to be aware of those around us and have proper manners. Friends need to think of other people and not just expect to be accepted “as we are”. I enjoyed the movie, but I had to overlook the subtle message of tolerance.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Joy, age 35 (USA)
Neutral—This movie is the most blatant piece of kiddie propaganda I have ever seen, in all my years of raising 7 kids and enjoying 8 grand kids. Loser cars, like Trabants and Gremlins, use oil and gas; cool cars use green fuel. Big corporations, and anyone engaged in business, are evil; clearly the only immorality is lack of environmentalism. You might want to point out to your kids that it is not quite this simple.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Manassasgrandma, age 54 (USA)
Neutral—“Cars 2” was good, but not great. A little disjointed, and it didn’t have the magic of the first one.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Ryan, age 35 (Canada)
Neutral—I gave this “neutral” simply because it was pretty boring at times. Not just for me, but for children… There was about a 30 minute run with very little action or humor going on, and you could see children all over the theatre getting restless, moving around, standing up, etc. It was clean and appropriate for most children, unless they are easily frightened. There are quite a few scenes where cars are drinking at a bar or party, which I am sure some will be offended. I guess the cars were supposed to be drinking oil or gas.

I do like that Pixar continues to release movies with nothing really offensive. Nothing sexual, nothing even close to profanity, very little potty humor, etc. Too many animated movies now have to have “jokes for adults” and a lot of potty humor.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Brad, age 39 (USA)
Neutral—Pixar has become such a part of life, like air and water, so when a new movie comes out you want to see what clever stuff they have done this time! I found myself watching the “short” about bimbo Ken and innocent Barbie going to Hawaii, assisted by the ever-loving, “Toy Story” crew and thought, “I wish the whole hour and fifty-three minutes was “Toy Story 4” instead of “Cars 2” in 2D.

When the main movie began, it was one long action-packed, loud frantic rush to get to the, no pun intended, finish line. Everything was too fast to really take in and you are left with a blur of rainbow colors and ringing in the ears! Yes, the animation was wonderful (take special note of the water and wave scenes and the shine on anything metal!), but I felt like a kid watching a NASCAR race through the narrow gap in a rotten fence… it left me greatly disappointed… and very dizzy! One can only imagine what 3D would do to some sensitive souls!

There are fun visual references to international travel (Rome, Paris, London, etc.) and a big focus on “James Bond” meets Tow Mater. Wherever James Bond-like characters are concerned, there is always some womanizing and drinking and more earthy language. Overall, “Cars 2” seems made for parents, and is slick, noisy, highly impressive in graphic skills, but very unimpressive in storyline. Save your money.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Christopher Winter, age 56 (USA)
Neutral—Unlike the first “Cars” movie, which was a cute, colorful, fun movie, this one is more for older children. There are ocean scenes in deep, dark water, several scenes of fire, spies, guns and explosions. I love Tow Mater, and was disappointed with this plot. They could do so much with him.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Ann, age 53 (USA)
Neutral—I went to see this movie with my oldest son (8 years old). I think this is the minimum age, if you want your children to understand anything about this film. It’s not, definitely, for younger kids. I didn’t appreciate the bar scenes where cars are shown drinking (supposedly oil) from cocktail glasses. Another scene that bothered me is when Mater squirted oil from underneath. There’s also quite a lot of violence. Sure they’re cars, but this cars are as as human as it gets for young children. I think the level of violence is acceptable for pre-teens but in my opinion is too much for younger children.

The plot is complicated for young kids. It involves spies, elite secret groups, conspiracies, etc… The story behind the movie didn’t bother me, although I don’t think it’s appropriate for this type of movies (in theory for the whole family). In a nutshell, I liked the film although I would only recommend it for children aged 10 or older.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Daniel Martinez, age 37 (Spain)
Negative—I would not recommend that a serious Christian take their children to see this movie. Like lots of animated movies, there are a lot of jokes intended more for an adult’s viewing pleasure than the child’s. The cars are in a bar scene, and, although they are drinking oil, it’s in martini glasses, etc. That obviously is to represent alcohol. There is name-calling, like “jerk” “idiot” “stupid,” etc. And it definitely has an environmentalist message implying that big oil is only in it for the money and doesn’t care about the planet, etc. Mater has a bathroom scene where water is squirted under him, and there are a couple of places where there is potty humor. There is definitely a love story between a few cars, and a comment is made that a female car will have to go get some “coolant” when she sees a “hot” male race car. Like so many movies, they are going with what is popular, and the positive message of being true to yourself is kind of a background message.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Mom, age 36 (USA)
Negative—I was disappointed in a this movie. For a movie with a “G” rating, I had not expected the main plot of the bad guys to be to “kill them” or “… must die”. These phrases were repeated quite frequently. Because Cars 2 took on a spy theme, it was your typical spy movie. Shoot ‘em up. The amount of violence and machine guns included in the movie didn’t make for a fun afternoon family film. My son wanted to know why Mater ran away from the dark alley shop when the “girl” car mentioned something about Headlights for him to see—as she opened her “headlights” which were eyes. He also wondered why Doc wasn’t there.

The jokes were tired (Mater’s “the bomb”) and predictable. The main character named Holley Shiftwell could have had a better name as well. This movie took the turn so many animated movies feel they need to take—inserting adult humor. This parent says, it’s a kids’ movie, leave the adultness on the floor of the cutting room.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Kara, age 41 (USA)
Negative—I only had one problem with this movie, and that is that, if you are someone who is sensitive to using God’s name in vain, there was a “Oh my Gosh,” by Lightning and a “Good God” by Mater, I believe. Other than that, it was full of excitement and humor. I personally liked the first “Cars” the best.
My Ratings: Moral rating: none / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Sonshine, age 40 (USA)
Negative—I wanted to watch it by myself to see first how the number 2 will come out. I was disappointed by the fact it’s more oriented on the spy story line, words of killing cars, there are guns = bullets involve flying everywhere, anyway, not for my 5 years old.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—David, age 36 (Canada)
Negative—I was glad I didn’t take any children to see this, because, while it was an entertaining movie for adults, it really didn’t seem appropriate for kids, especially young kids. My biggest problem with it was that it seemed very violent. Many cars died. This was probably justified by the moviemakers and many viewers that it’s OK, because they are just cars. However, it seems to me that in the world of these movies, the cars ARE people. This might be alright for a PG movie, but it seems a bit much for a G film to have “people” machine gunned, burned, blown up, crushed, CARate chopped, etc. I think Pixar forgot who their primary audience is.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Jonathan, age 40 (USA)
Negative—Although excellently made and visually almost overwhelming, I regret taking my 3 year old to this movie without previewing it. It is nothing like the original, in terms of storyline or themes; in fact, its storyline, themes, and jokes, are geared toward adults or at least preteens, with some political views thrown in.

And, most importantly, there is unending violence in the movie. If the cars were replaced by humans, it would be unimaginable to show this to children. Considering the cars ARE humans in the movie (since in the CARS world there are no humans to be seen), I basically felt like I let my son watch attempted murder, torture, and evil men plotting to destroy other people.

I’m not sure what other people’s definition of “fun” and “action packed” is, but this was basically an adult movie cloaked in cars and cartoon. Absolutely not appropriate for young children.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Tara, age 33 (Canada)
Comments from young people
Positive—I saw this movie with my dad, and he didn’t exactly want to see it, to start, but he came out with a smile on his face. I loved it, and I found it better in the entertainment side of things than the first. It wasn’t the sort of classic feel to it, but we loved it. I think it was awesome, and it made me feel good. Good values with friendship and sticking together, coming out of it. Violence wasn’t a problem, and the spy side made it better, in my opinion. AWESOME!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Joel, age 12 (Australia)
Positive—I LOVE this movie…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Samuel, age 10 (USA)
—while I do enjoy this movie this had way more violence than “The Incredibles,” cars are strapped with guns, there is an American agent voiced by Bruce Campbell gets brutally beaten up by two of the bad guys and later gets killed, two of the bad guys get killed by Finn McMissile by crushing them with an elevator, one bad guy falls hundreds of feet into the ocean, another agent gets crushed into a cube, the second main bad guy’s ship explodes and is killed instantly by Finn McMissile, the second main character [main character is Mater].
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Andrew, age 15 (USA)
Neutral—…I saw this movie for my birthday. I… expected to watch the best Pixar film yet, that had spy cars instead of racing cars. I thought it was going to be awesome. But after about twenty minutes, the laughs went away, and so did my smile. Also, the story was so confusing. The movie was pretty offensive to young kids, because of its killing cars and some cars saying “kill Lightning McQueen.”

In my opinion, it was a ok film with great action and animation. But the story was bad. I would, if I were you, just wait for it to come out on DVD and rent it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Andre, age 15 (Canada)