August 24, 2011
"Cars 2" is an unusual case of a highly anticipated film that was not simultaneously released here locally as in the States. I wonder why? Anyway after I watched this film, I think I know why. For all the positive goodwill that the first Cars film had, this film was a relative disappointment. This may actually be the weakest of the Pixar output so far.
I will not knock the artwork. This definitely maintains the high standards that elevate all Pixar films with regards to quality of animation. The racing and hi-jinx spy sequences done in familiar landmark locales all over the world were all very excellently rendered. There was action in the roads, underwater and the skies. This time we get to see talking boats and planes, aside from just the titular cars.
For me the problem was with the story. I think the complex spy story that underlies this installment, and the highfalutin spy lingo it uses, flies over the comprehension of the young kiddie audience it caters to. I do not think kids would fully understand about the issues on alternative fuels or on "lemon" cars. These "adult" issues that motivate the villains' violent actions will make it hard for kids to really get the story without parental explanation. I think it was not too cool to see cars being "killed" in some very violent scenes. I do not think it was a good idea to kids to see their gentle favorite Mater with rocket boosters and machine guns.
Contrary to most expectations, Lightning McQueen is NOT the hero of Cars 2. The central character in this one is Mater, whom we knew as the loyal sidekick. Unfortunately, for me at least, Mater did not cut it as leading man. His awkward country bumpkin demeanor and hick-town country drawl were only funny from the side, but was rather hard to take when it was front and center most of the time.
After Mater, the cars with more screen time than McQueen were British spy cars Finn McMissile and Holley Shiftwell. While they were both quintessentially cool British secret agents, they also blow the beloved "heart and soul" of the first Cars movie out of this film's focus. You hardly even see Sally and the rest of the Radiator Springs gang. It was also that the focus of the whole film was more the "James Bond"-like spy story, while the races were merely incidental.