It took real willpower for me not to leave after the first 20 minutes of watching Pixar’s new movie Cars 2. The only reason I shifted nervously through the rest of the film was because I brought my 10-year-old granddaughter along. I could have saved myself some unease, for when we walked out of the screening, she said, “That was a terrible movie, Grandma. I didn’t like it.”
The first problem with this film involves a loss of identity. The funny and innovative town of Radiator Springs and its eclectic vehicle inhabitants featured in Cars (2006) was a center point of what happened in the original movie. We loved the hotshot swagger of racecar Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson). McQueen’s courtship with the saucy Porsche Sally (voiced by Bonnie Hunt) came across as warm and fun. The rusty tow truck Tow Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy), had a heart of gold and a great sense of humor. Luigi (Tony Shalhoub), Fillmore (George Carlin) Sarge (Paul Dooley), Ramone (Cheech Marin), Flo (Jenifer Lewis), and of course Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) were adorable characters who contributed to a delightful story that flowed well and entertained both kids and adults.
Cars 2 starts with a confusing scene right out of James Bond -- but with cars, a ship, and actions even I couldn’t figure out what was going on. At first I wondered if this was some kind of commercial tie-in. But soon we’re into a little mishap between Lightning McQueen and his best friend Tow Mater. When Mc Queen decides to up his game and enter the worldwide Grand Prix, he’s off to race around the world. He has a few crew members along, and naturally Tow Mater knows he must be there too.
The movie becomes a jumbled mess from this point on. There’s the confusing James Bondish-theme with agents Finn McMissile (voiced by Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (voiced by Emily Mortimer) running around trying to save McQueen from someone who wants to blow him up but often having to save their own butts -- er-fenders -- instead. There’s a subplot about McQueen being so embarrassed by Tow Mater’s inappropriate behavior in Tokyo, which raises the question of whether or not they can maintain their friendship, but it’s lost in this disaster of a story. Even the music during the races seems irritating: instead of hearing what one would image at a NASCAR race, the score sounds more fitting for the Olympics.
Scenes centered on adult behavior such as drinking martinis, engaging in bathroom brawls and mafia type actions are painfully dull and pointless. Don’t we have enough problems with teens driving under the influence? Now we have animated suggestive scenes with 10W-40 martinis? Shame on Pixar.
Digging themselves into a deeper non-kid hole, there’s some kind of link about “oil” running through the movie. Not particularly vehicle oil, but Big Oil and evil people who want to control it. Gee, I wonder where that idea came from?
I’m very disappointed in this story by John Lasseter, Brad Lewis, Dan Fogelman and screenplay by Ben Queen. I can’t imagine what they were thinking. Cars 2 does not have an audience. It’s definitely not for children. Throughout this 113-minute film, I noticed only about 10 minutes of laughs from youngsters, and not much more from adults.
In the film’s synopsis, Pixar says that McQueen wants to be the world’s fastest car, but the road to the finish line is filled with plenty of potholes, detours and bombshells. Unfortunately, it’s Cars 2 that’s filled with potholes, detours and bombshells instead. My advice? Don’t waste your money on this one.
(Released by Disney/Pixar and rated “G” for general audiences.)
Review also posted at www.reviewexpress.com.