“Cars 2” is Pixar Animation’s first misfire.
Granted, the first “Cars” was far from fantastic but, traditionally, even a mediocre Pixar project is better than any other animation studio’s best effort. However, “Cars 2” puts the brakes on that winning streak with a plot that is too complicated for kids and too frenzied for adults. In the end, it appears to be merely a means to market merchandise.
Owen Wilson once again voices star racecar Lightening McQueen, who is reluctantly torn from a period of rest and relaxation in Radiator Springs in order to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix. He and his best friend/tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) head overseas but the road to the championship is filled with plenty of potholes and dangerous detours.
See, Mater – who feels kind of like a fish out of water – gets caught up in the world of international espionage when master British super spy Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and his spy-in-training Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) mistake him for their American informant. Moreover, the case is directly tied to the new fuel that is being used to power the race.
Having been yanked away from Lightning McQueen – who is embarrassed by his pal’s quirky antics and must come to terms with his own internal conflict – Mater takes to the streets of Japan and Europe to participate in explosive chases and undercover missions in an effort to save the world from an evil plan orchestrated by the kind of cars he knows best… lemons.
It is difficult to imagine that this action-packed cartoon hails from the same studio that released “Finding Nemo” or “Wall-E” much less the best motion picture of 2010 “Toy Story 3.” “Cars 2” has an excess of gas but none of the heart that is typically associated with Pixar projects. Even the moral seems to have been watered down in favor of explosive excitement.
There are plenty of vehicular puns to keep parents mildly amused and children may get a kick out of the liveliness of the whole thing but “Cars 2” seems destined for the junk-yard. The emotional connection in this sequel simply is not strong enough for adults and the James Bond-esque story is certain to confuse kids.
However, there is one reason to see “Cars 2” – a “Toy Story” short titled “Hawaiin Vacation.” In a few short minutes, Woody, Buzz and their plaything pals exhibit more humor and heart than Lightning McQueen, Mater and their scrap-metal mates are able to accomplish in nearly 2 hours.
“Cars 2” (G – 113 minutes) is now playing at movie theaters throughout the Valley. Visit FirstLook.com for specific showtimes.
Listen to Joseph J. Airdo’s “Movie Maverick” radio segment, every Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. during “The Daily Blender with Jeffry O’Brien” on KBSZ – NBC 1260 AM and 96.1 FM.