Review: Cars 2


I learned a few things from seeing Cars 2.

1. Not all Pixar films actually have emotional depth.

2. Pixar should make an action movie.

3. If someone ever tries to cram a terrible character like Mater down my throat again I’m just going to leave the theater.

As with all disappointing Pixar films Cars 2 is still a good movie. We’ve probably said it a million times over our Pixar Week, but even a bad Pixar film is a great children’s movie. And Cars 2 isn’t a bad film at all, it’s just not what you’ve come to expect from the greatest animation studio ever. It’s far more what you’d expect from every other animation studio at the top of their game.

Cars, which many agree was not Pixar’s strongest film, wasn’t really crying out for a sequel — unless you’re the marketing guys at Disney who want to see more toys. But then again neither was Toy Story and its sequels were stunningly good. Since the original didn’t really set anything up for another film Cars 2 veers well off the beaten track and even establishes Mater as its main character. Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is still racing and winning trophies around the world, while his best friend Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) stays home. Then, after McQueen accepts a challenge to join in on a World Prix, Mater finally gets the chance to travel with him. It turns out, however, that the races are actually being infiltrated by evil cars and the British secrete service, led by spy car Finn McMissile (Michael Caine), is attempting to stop them.

McMissile mistakes Mater for his US counterpart and thus embroils the idiotic tow truck in the world of top secret spies, high-tech gadgets and sexy, lady spy cars. This plot line pretty much eliminates any other characters from the first film that you may have liked and puts McQueen in the second fiddle seat to Mater, and that is just terrible. Mater might be a good sidekick, but as a main character he stinks. His joke (intentionally singular) gets old in about ten second (much like Larry the Cable Guy’s) and the life lesson we’re supposed to learn about acceptance of everyone falls incredibly flat because Mater actually is an idiot who acts like a total ass. During the montage where we’re supposed to feel sorry for him I just kept thinking that he should actually be upset with the way he had acted in public.

Tossing my annoyance at Mater aside, Cars 2 can be quite enjoyable. It’s actually more of an action movie than anything else, which makes it quite unique in the Pixar canon. The opening sequence in which McMissile infiltrates an enemy drilling facility in the middle of the ocean could rival many Bond opening sequences and thanks to the fact that the movie is full of cars there are actually some pretty solid car chases throughout. Whenever Mater wasn’t talking and the story wasn’t being annoying the film was quite impressive, which is usually a statement I reserve for mindless action flicks not children’s films.

Of course those children are going to love the movie either way. Pixar’s brand of childish, but clever humor runs rampant throughout the film and will keep the kids happy. Unfortunately, their other trademark — emotional depth — is almost completely null and void thanks to the aforementioned Mater issues. This means this is probably the least accessible film for parents. I doubt that’s a criticism that many attending the screening will care about, but as a fan of the amazing stories Pixar is capable of telling and the amazing characters they’ve created it’s hard to not be disappointed.

I probably don’t need to mention that the animation is simply fantastic. The chance for Pixar to animate some of the most well known cities in the world might be excuse enough for the film in itself. A car chase through Italy is absolutely breathtaking at times. However, it seems that the folks at Pixar either don’t buy into the whole 3D thing or simply don’t know how to direct for it. Paying the extra bucks to see Cars 2 in 3D is almost worthless as the the extra dimension adds almost nothing to the shots or the film as a whole. Finally one area where Disney’s own animation studios are doing something better than Pixar as the use of 3D in Tangled was absolutely stunning.

Coming down harshly on this film may seem a bit too much, considering that I opened with the fact that its still good. Pixar’s problem (if you can call it that) is that they set the bar so damn high. As an animated feature Cars 2 is good as long as you can put up with Mater, but as a Pixar movie its missing much of the magic that you’ve come to expect from the studio.

Overall Score: 6.10 – Okay. (6s are just okay. These movies usually have many flaws, didn’t try to do anything special, or were poorly executed. Some will still love 6s, but most prefer to just rent them. Watch more trailers and read more reviews before you decide.)

Max Roahrig: 6 – Okay. Pixar made a spy movie. Yes, you read that correctly. The Toy Story guys made an honest to goodness spy movie. With Michael Caine and Bruce Campbell. If that’s not enough of a reason to go see the flick, I don’t know what is. What’s that? You have kids? Ah, then yes, go see Cars 2. They’ll enjoy the vrooms, and you’ll enjoy the explosions. While there isn’t enough to really satisfy a grown up’s movie palate, the kids will absolutely love it. And hey mom and dad, at least Mater isn’t as pins-in-eyes annoying as he was in the first movie. 

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.