Posts Tagged ‘cars 2’

I have a love-hate relationship with Pixar.  I want to love them, but most of the time hate (well am indifferent, hate is a pretty strong word for this context) the films they create.  That’s right; I’m probably the only person alive who doesn’t like two of their biggest hits, The Incredibles and Wall-E.  I’ve also got a few issues with their other films like Finding Nemo (the opening scene is NOT appropriate for a small child) and Up! (the opening scene is really the only part of this film I loved, I was fairly bored through the rest of it).

So if I don’t really like Pixar films, then why did I go bother to see Cars 2?  Because for each “miss” for me, there is a “hit” and the first Cars was just that.  I was hesitant to see it when it first came out; in fact I waited until it was in its final run at the theater I worked at.  I saw it late at night, with no one in the audience, in one of the smaller auditoriums (#7 for the Carmikers who read this) at the theater I was working at.  I only ended up seeing it because I had a free evening and had seen everything else playing at the time.  Never underestimate the appeal of seeing a movie when you’re not paying for your ticket.

So I sat, I watched and I LOVED the film.  I tried to figure out what it was that made the first film so great and I came up with the following criteria:

  • stunning visuals
  • memorable characters
  • a great soundtrack
  • a story that imparts a life lesson
  • nostalgia

As I sat down to watch Cars 2 (a Sunday matinee on opening weekend, filled with small children… what in the world WAS I thinking, oye!) I was cautiously optimistic.  I had to remember that Toy Story 2 was amazing, heck even Shrek 2 (yes I know Shrek is produced by Dreamworks, shaddup) as far as a sequel went nearly blew the original out of the water.  Surely Cars 2 would get the same careful treatment by Pixar.  I wanted to love this film; I wanted to leave with a smile on my face.  I didn’t however.  I just felt indifferent, as I had after so many Pixar films.

Don’t get me wrong, as a stand alone movie it would have been great.  It however wasn’t a stand alone movie.  It has an established back story that is utterly ignored and neglected in the sequel.  It was a spy movie that was dumbed down so it was suitable for kids, where animated cars were the spies.  No really, that’s basically the synopsis of the film.  If you have a 5 year old, take them to see it, they’ll probably love it.  That being said should I not nitpick it, because I’m not the audience for whom it was intended?  It’s my blog, so I’ll nitpick as much as I want, and frankly, Pixar is known for making films that appeal across the board to children and adults so I figure I’m allowed to complain… I mean critique the film.

If we look at the criteria established above, it only hits 2 of the 5 categories I’ve listed:  stunning visuals and a story that imparts a life lesson.

As always, Pixar films LOOK amazing.  This one didn’t disappoint.  The clever tie-ins to previous films (the restaurant from Ratatouille in Paris) and incidentals you have to really be paying attention to pick up on like the Lassa Tyres signage around the track (the films director is Lasseter) are all there.

The life lesson that is imparted is that you should always be yourself, and be proud of who you are, not change yourself to fit in.  A worthy lesson for kids to learn.  Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) was the vehicle (pun intended) through which this lesson was imparted.  Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) was upset with him for being himself (a crass, country bumpkin) when a more refined image was needed.  Mater leaves the racing circuit rather than embarrass McQueen and he is mistaken for an American spy with his dumber than dirt image being his cover.

So then, what are we missing?  Great characters.  The stand out in the original film was Doc Hudson (aka the Hudson Hornet) who is only briefly mentioned in this film.  Special props also need to go to “The King” voiced by Richard Petty (the actual king of Nascar racing… yes, I grew up in a house that watched Nascar so I can appreciate all the attention to detail that was paid to the ‘sport’ in the first film).  We can surmise that Doc Hudson passed on to that great big dirt track in the sky from what is glossed over in the film.

The cavalcade of other characters (Luigi, Guido, Sarge, Filbert) travel along with Lightning McQueen acting as his pit crew as he competes in three races all across the globe.  Part of the original Radiator Springs crew is left at home however, including Ramone, Flo, Sally and the adorable Red.  We are introduced to two new characters, British spies Finn McMissile and Holly Shiftwell played by Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer respectively.  Mater becomes the featured star of this film, instead of the loveable side-kick.  For people who only found Mater amusing in small doses (myself for instance), making the new story revolve around him was an issue.

All of that aside, we can focus on the last two things that were missing from this film:  the soundtrack and the nostalgia.

I LOVED the Cars soundtrack.  I have it on my iPod and could recognize all the songs (and the artists singing them which is rare for me) as I watched Cars for the first time.  This movie, I didn’t recognize any of the music, with the exception of Brad Paisley singing on the credits with someone else… who I’m guessing is British based on the lyrics?  Music drives a film, and it certainly drove the original Cars.  (Really, these driving puns need to stop).  Couple it with the lack of nostalgia because we are not in the American heartland, looking at great and classic cars (instead we get Gremlins and Pacers and other notorious lemons) and seeing sweeping scenes of the southwest and it’s a disappointment.  I understand that you can’t remake the first movie, that this was probably the natural progression for the film but all the things that made the first film so perfect don’t carry through to the next installment.

My final rating is 2.5 out of 5.  If you have a small child I’d take them to see it, or at least rent the film when it’s available from Netflix or Redbox.  Otherwise this is one to skip.

(I also apologize for my lack of pictures and links in this review, you’ll have to forgive me just this once!  The post was written a few days ago with the intent to add the links when I was on my personal computer.  I got caught up tonight after work… making jam and jelly if you must know (4 types!)… and I just wanted to get it posted by midnight so I didn’t blow through yet another deadline.  Thursday apparently has not been a good day for blogging.  Maybe I need to reevaluate what nights I post, lol!)