I actually liked Cars a lot, even though a lot of people seemed to consider that Pixar’s worst movie. I thought it was really good, as were all Pixar movies.
When I first heard about Cars 2 (years ago) I didn’t fret. Cars was good, and Pixar was well-known to insist on good story first before making a film.
But when I saw the first trailers for Cars 2, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. I didn’t see how they would pull this one off. Mater in Tokyo getting involved in a spy story? This looked like “let’s milk this franchise for all we can” direct-to-video type fare.
And yet I had faith in Pixar, and went to see Cars 2… and it was better than the previews indicated, and the climax was actually exciting… but for the first time in a Pixar film, I found myself, about two-thirds in, wishing it was over.
This story really does not flow organically from the original. No. The characters are shoehorned in to a story with a completely different tone and feel.
The problem of sapient cars in a world with no humans is something that takes a lot of people right out of the film; I was able to suspend this disbelief for the first movie, but the 2nd film really makes that hard. Who made the tiles on the roof that Finn McMissile knocks down? Cars, amazingly enough, do not have hands, and there are sooo many things in their world that need hands to have been made… and so the spy cars are given James Bond-esque voice-activated gadgets that try to make up for it… but all they do for me is call attention to the problem that is actually best glossed over, because it cannot stand up to scrutiny.
This film is basically Mater’s Undercover Adventure, with a small amount of Lightning McQueen thrown in, and barely any of anybody else. Furthermore, there only characterization involved, a spat between best friends, has the exact wrong message. McQueen was RIGHT to ask Mater to behave differently at an upscale party in Tokyo than at his home in a small American town. EVERYONE should be capable of altering their behavior based on what setting they are in. I don’t lounge in my underwear in the public library because “I’m just being true to myself.” I can be true to myself, still be fundamentally myself, and yet have some self-control and consideration for other people’s customs! McQueen may have gotten angry and yelled at Mater, but he was ultimately exactly correct.
Mater’s self-absorption and obtuseness reached mountainous levels in this movie, he left his job as McQueen’s racing coach in the middle of a race to flirt with a girl and didn’t turn his headset off, causing chatter to distract McQueen and ultimately changes the outcome of the race! And then McQueen ends up apologizing?!
My other major problem was that the villains murder a character in cold blood during the film. The camera pans away but we see the dismembered character’s body parts flying through the air in a reflection. Seriously, Pixar? This character is never referred to again. Even after the good-guy spy characters realize that Mater is not their contact, they never wonder where he actually ended up. The murder was not even necessary for the story, he could have been imprisoned instead. My daughter didn’t seem to notice this part much, but I did, and it bothered ME. I don’t go to family films to feel bad. I go to be entertained, or perhaps moved, or englightened, but not to feel bad, and brutal murder makes me feel bad, especially when it’s in such sharp contrast to the rest of the film.
Ultimately, it’s not a horrible movie. It’s a bad Pixar film, but it was for the most part entertaining. I’m sure I’ll buy it on DVD and my daughter will watch it lots, and I’ll even watch it again myself a few times. But I’ll be reading during the boring parts, probably.