After the smashing success of “Cars,” Pixar decided to go bigger with “Cars 2.” But, they didn’t necessarily get better. Lightning McQueen has advanced beyond the Piston Cup and is now taking part in the World Grand Prix. But, there’s a plot by the lemons to cause the race cars to explode and it will take an international team of superspies, who mistake Mater for a spy, to stop the plan.
Did that confuse you? It’s still baffling to me that that was the plot of the sequel to a movie about auto racing and learning to appreciate slowing down in the middle of the country. Pixar deserves to be commended for not recycling the first plot as so many sequels do. They saw a bold option and decided to take it. I’m just not sure how well this works.
One of the charming things about the first “Cars” film was Mater. If you’re not a fan of Larry the Cable Guy, it’s pleasantly surprising to see how he shines in the first film as the Radiator Springs resident who adopts Lightning McQueen as his best friend. Mater is best as a side character in small doses. He transitions to co-lead here and it’s just not as fun. He stops being pleasantly charming and becomes grating. At least to me, I’m sure others still find him charming.
The movie is far more visually appealing than the first though. The glitz and glamour of the international race sites shine through making it easy to see why they went with a World Grand Prix as a setting. Pixar has also started getting into genre films, so it makes sense that they would eventually make a spy movie. I’m just not sure that “Cars 2” needed the auto racing and spy genres blended together.
If you read my rankings of the Pixar films, I had this one second from the bottom. But, at the end of the day, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the film. I walked away from it the first time I saw it and thought to myself, “that was kind of dumb, but fun.” I’ve felt like that on every repeat viewing, so I guess you can say it holds up.
One of the strengths of the first “Cars” film is the incorporation of so many people from the world of auto racing as voice actors. “Cars 2” doesn’t deliver in the same way. Darrell Waltrip returns for the sequel and we get characters voiced by David Hobbs and Jeff Gordon. These are nice, but I believe they missed a golden opportunity to bring in more international racing stars as cameo voices for some of the racers.
All in all, this is an okay film. It’s lower-tier Pixar, which is still better than the best a lot of other companies can offer. It’s a fun way to spend a couple of hours, but don’t expect to come away asking deeper questions about the film like you do with better Pixar offerings.
Ranking: 2.5 stars out of 5.
What did you think of “Cars 2?”