Owen Wilson and the Gang Return for Another Race Around the Track
|Cars 2 (2011).|
"Cars 2" (2011) came five years after the initial "Cars," and it was worth the wait. This time, Pixar Guru John Lasseter (who currently runs Disney/Pixar's entire animation operation) shares the directing role with Brad Lewis. The main characters are back, with the unfortunate exception of Paul Newman, who passed away in 2008. It is in Disney Digital 3D and IMAX 3D animation, as well as normal 2D conventional and IMAX formats. It is the 12th animated Pixar film and did very well at the box office, becoming the sixth biggest Pixar film in worldwide box office, though the critical reception was a little less keen than for the original film.
|Uh, oh, that's trouble!|
The plot involves an oil company conspiracy to destroy an alternative "green" fuel. As in the original, there are lots of races, Lightning McQueen learns a lot about himself, though the focus is not on him as much this time. There remains great rapport between him and the other cars in town such as Mater the tow truck (Larry the Cable Guy) and girlfriend Sally Carrera (Bonnie Hunt) when he returns home to Radiator Springs.
|I love Aston Martins|
Sir Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izard), a reformed oil tycoon, announces plans for a racing series to promote his new alternative fuel. An Italian driver, Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro), calls Lightning out, so he and his friends head to Tokyo, Japan for the first race in the series. An evil mastermind, Professor Zundapp (Thomas Kretschmann), are fearful that the new fuel might hurt their oil profits, so he figures out a way to destroy it using electromagnetic pulses. In a case of mistaken identity, Mater is treated as an American spy by the British and helps them to defeat Zundapp. His investigation takes him to Paris and Italy, and he ultimately uncovers Zundapp's plot. McQueen vows to use the fuel in his next race despite the danger, so Zundapp determines to kill him. In a final twist, Zundapp is arrested, and Mater comes to the conclusion that someone else is behind the plot to kill McQueen anad discredit the fuel.
|The Italian car and Lightning|
Once again, Owen Wilson voices "Lightning McQueen." Michael Caine is British spy Finn McMissile, who assists Mater in figuring out the plot and protecting Lightning.
|They are one big happy family.|
"Cars" was only the second Pixar film to get a sequel, and the studio's lack of previous experience tends to show at times. The focus on Mater is a bit of a stretch, with the story transforming from one about a race car driver who learns valuable life lessons from simple folk, to a complicated tale of international shenanigans. The "fish out of water" motif was still fresh about thirty years ago, and the "simple guy knows more about spying than the foreign spies" aspect leaves a lot to be desired in terms of originality. This film is left with a completely different theme, which works as far as it goes, but be prepared for less common wisdom tied to personal growth, and more cheap thrills.
|It's kind of weird that they have people watching in a world of just cars....|
There are plenty of familiar character actors and celebrities from the world of racing voicing minor cars, including Bruce Campbell, John Ratzenberger, Brent Musberger, Darrell Waltrip, Katherine Helmond, Bonnie Hunt, Jeff Gordon, Marin, Paul Dooley and Tony Shalhoub. Besides Newman, Joe Ranft and George Carlin also passed away between films. There also is a plane named "Siddeley" (Jason Isaacs) who we will be seeing a lot in the future.
|Back home in the Springs in "Cars 2."|
Some of the races are overseas, so we see some historic foreign locales in Tokyo and Italy. As with the first film, Disney released die-cast versions of the cars that are slightly larger than Matchbox cars, and many people collect them. As usual, there always was that one car that you couldn't find.... The score is by Michael Giacchino, who previously did "The Incredibles," "Up"and "Ratatouille."
|The bright lights of the Ginzu District in "Cars 2."|
There is a lot of action in this installment, but also some problems. Lightning is the key draw of the entire series, and making Mater the focus of attention doesn't work very well. The film is as visually dazzling as the original film, but the story is no longer the homespun goodness viewers might expect. It seems as if the studio wanted to go for a flashy film to show off its animation skills, but the story plays as if it were some cheap 1960s spy flick. It is entertaining enough, but hopefully the next film in the series (if there is one) will get back to the first film's focus on the star and leave Mater to towing cars.
|Siddeley gets his own sequel!|
This was the first Pixar film not to be nominated for any Oscars. There is a related video game and the usual scads of merchandise. A direct-to-video spin-off called "Planes," featuring talking planes, was made at DisneyToon Studios. It was released in August 2013.
While not as spectacular a success as Disney probably expected, this one still will entertain and, more importantly for some, it made money. Give "Cars 2" a whirl if you liked the first film, or even if you just want a fun ride with amiable cars.