Cars 2 (2011) – The 12th Pixar Animated Feature – Directed by John Lassater – Starring Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Jason Isaacs, Thomas Kretschmann, Eddie Izzard, John Turturro, Joe Mantegna, Tony Shaloub, Bruce Campbell, Franco Nero, John Ratzenberger, Vanessa Redgrave, Bonnie Hunt, Cheech Marin, Katherine Helmond, Jeff Garlin, Edie McClurg, and Richard Kind.
They made an entire movie about the freaking sidekick.
Not a direct-to-DVD movie. Not a made-for-cable movie. Not an animated short that gets played before the real movie, but an actual, honest-to-goodness $200 million release about the …
about the …
… about THE FREAKING TOW TRUCK.
Maybe John Lasseter’s office at the Magic Kingdom is actually in the parking garage, because sucking on exhaust fumes is one of the only possible explanations I can come up with for making this movie revolve around the one-note (one-not-really-that-funny-note) Tow Mater.
I had heard a lot of negative reaction to CARS 2, and through the first 30 or 40 minutes of the movie, I was wondering what could possibly have caused such a negative reaction. The film opens with a fantastic action sequence on an oil rig that sees Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) doing his whole super cool British spy thing. There’s plenty of action and the top flight CGI animation that Pixar does better than anyone else.
From there we head to Radiator Springs, where Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is returning home after winning his fourth Piston Cup championship. He reunites with best pal Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), his girlfriend Sally (Bonnie Hunt), and is about to enjoy some good ol’ fashioned time off when Mater gets him wrapped up in some international racing competition. Milex Axelrod (Eddie Izzard) has created this new alternative biofuel called Allinol and to prove how awesome it is, he’s going to stage the World Grand Prix, which will have race cars from all over the world, and from all different series. He’s on TV being interviewed alongside Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro), a Formula One-styled racing car, who loves himself even more than the ladies love him. Francesco does a bit of trash talking and next thing you know, Mater is calling in to the talk show to talk up the awesomeness of Lightning. When McQueen realizes what’s happening, he jumps on the phone and accepts the invitation to the race.
We’re off to Japan for some really gorgeous CGI and engaging hobnobbing and racing and espionage as Finn and Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) show up to meet with an American contact. The contact is supposed to be Torque (Bruce Campbell), but the bad guys are onto him. Mater gets in the middle of their battle because Mater is hilarious and Mater in a Japanese bathroom stall is hilarious times hilarious, and Torque attaches his information device onto Mater without the tow truck realizing what’s happened.
And from there the movie rather begins to sink, as it becomes apparent that this is a Mater movie, with McQueen relegated to doing some racing stuff in between Mater being hilarious with Finn and Holly.
I lay the blame for the disappointing CARS 2 solely on the decision to focus on Mater. The story is fine, in and of itself, though the larger themes of friendship and how it’s okay to be a stupid American while in other countries falls a bit flat. The idea of a World Grand Prix is a good one, and the espionage plot is well-conceived, too. Finn and Holly travel by plane and train as they seek to solve the mission of who’s behind the Big Evil Plot, but that idiot Mater is sitting right in the middle of all their espionage stuff being Mater. I just don’t understand what Lasseter was thinking. It’s a classic sequel mistake of taking what was funny in small doses in the original movie and then loading up on it because, obviously, if a little of something is funny than a lot of something is going to be super funny.
Except it’s not.
I suppose it might be possible to say that one’s enjoyment of CARS 2 is equatable with one’s enjoyment of Larry the Cable Guy. Well, my enjoyment of his shtick is rather low, and so every time he does his “dum dum dum der der dum dum der” routine, I want to hit the fast forward button. In small doses, it’s fine, but in large doses it’s just … so … tedious.
It’s a shame because I love the idea of CARS 2. I love the racing angle. I like the idea of taking McQueen and Mater out of Radiator Springs, but Mater’s whole “Dumb American Abroad” routine is as tiresome to me as it is embarrassing to Lightning. I don’t even mind seeing the secondary characters I liked so much in the original CARS become almost non-existent because we get a bunch of new, equally cool secondary characters.
But to build this idea around Mater … Ugh.
CARS 2 certainly isn’t an awful movie. If nothing else, Pixar has created a gorgeous movie to look at. Rather, CARS 2 a pretty good movie with a really awful center. I suppose it’s a bit like enjoying a Tootsie Pop but hating the Tootsie center – it starts all awesome and then bogs down in chewy junk.