Larry the Cable Guy as Mater (voice)
Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen (voice)
Michael Caine as Finn McMissile (voice)
Emily Mortimer as Holley Shiftwell (voice)
Eddie Izzard as Sir Miles Axlerod (voice)
John Turturro as Francesco Bernoulli (voice)
Brent Musburger as Brent Mustangburger (voice)
Joe Mantegna as Grem (voice)
Thomas Kretschmann as Professor Z (voice)
Peter Jacobson as Acer (voice)
Bonnie Hunt as Sally (voice)
Darrell Waltrip as Darrell Cartrip (voice)
Franco Nero as Uncle Topolino (voice)
David Hobbs as David Hobbscap (voice)
Patrick Walker as Mel Dorado (voice)
Directed by John Lasseter and Brad Lewis
A lack of anything new hurts "Cars 2," but it's still entertaining for both kids and adults. The switch to the spy genre ends up being some fun and the 3D looks great.
Sometime after the first "Cars" movie, industrialist-adventurer Sir Miles Axlerod has developed a new alternative fuel for cars. In order to promote the new fuel, he has decided to sponsor a race featuring the world's fastest cars in Japan, Italy, and England. At first Lightning McQueen declines the invitation to race because he wants to unwind with his friends in Radiator Springs, but taunting from Italian Formula-1 racer Francesco Bernoulli forces him to join in. And for a change of pace he decides to bring Mater along with him as part of his pit crew.
Little do our heroes realize, but there's international intrigue afoot around the race. British spy Finn McMissile has uncovered a plot by the evil Professor Z to disrupt the race, but how or when is unknown. With the help of Holley Shiftwell, Finn attempts to contact an American spy at the race in order to gather more information. However, Mater is mistaken for the American spy and he's soon swept into the dangerous spy game. And unfortunately along the way, he interferes with Lightning McQueen's racing. Can he save the world and restore his friendship? Will he git 'er done? Buy a movie ticket and find out!
"Cars 2" is rated G.
I have to admit that I wasn't looking forward to "Cars 2." Nothing about the trailers interested me. They looked dull, I questioned the wisdom of turning the "Cars" franchise into a spy movie, and I honestly thought this could be Pixar's first bomb. While I didn't think this was a great film, I'm happy to report it's not a bomb either.
While completely flipping genres seems questionable, I actually ended up buying it in "Cars 2." As soon as the film opens, we're treated to a quite spectacular spy action scene on an offshore oil rig. Lots of gadgets, lots of explosions, and every Bond cliché in the book. In fact, the opening scene of the movie is arguably the highlight of the whole film. It's in this scene that I came to the realization that cars are an inherent part of the spy movie genre. A cool car is as important to James Bond as a martini. Once I made that connection between cars and spies, I was thoroughly on board for the genre swap.
That being said, the racing is still an essential part of "Cars 2." We're treated to an international race featuring NASCAR racers, Formula 1 racers, drift cars, etc. Everything is represented. And, of course, we're exposed to more of the "Cars" world. We see Japan and all its neon signs, anime influence, and car version of its culture. The same goes for Italy and London. While the funny car versions of our world are still here and still a fun part of the film, it does lose some of the novelty it had in the first movie.
Another surprise was the fact that Mater was the star of this film, not Lightning McQueen. Your enjoyment of "Cars 2" will depend a lot on how you feel about Mater. I'm OK with him. I know some people here in Texas like him. If you've seen some of the "Cars" shorts or the "Mater's Tall Tales," this movie has a feel like a feature length version of "Mater's Tall Tales." The formula is he does these crazy, amazing things, nobody believes him, then at the end it's revealed to be true. "Cars 2" doesn't break from that formula.
A few new cars are added to the cast. Most notable is Michael Caine as Finn McMissile. His voice is well-suited for animation and this movie is like a chance for him to go back and play James Bond, albeit in car form. Emily Mortimer plays Holley Shiftwell and you have to enjoy the fact that they named her according to Bond double-entendre rules. John Turturro is also fun as Francesco Bernoulli. This man belongs in animation, not in "Transformers" movies. His over-the-top performance is well-suited for the Italian car.
"Cars 2" can be seen in 3D and I think this is one of those movies where it helps the film presentation. We get to see Mater literally fly out of the screen. We get to see impressive views where the camera is on the side of Lightning McQueen as he races. The 3D helps you appreciate just how much detail goes into the crowd scenes and the cityscapes. If you can see it in 3D, I recommend doing so.
"Cars 2" has a Pixar short in front of it and this time it's a "Toy Story" one. In it, Barbie and Ken attempt to stow away in Molly's backpack as she goes on a Hawaiian vacation, but instead they get left in her house with the other toys. In order to make them feel better, Woody, Buzz, and the gang attempt to recreate Hawaii in the toy room. It's very funny and it's fun to see the toys have a happy life after the tear-jerking ending of "Toy Story 3." There was also an impressive preview of Pixar's new film "Brave." I have to say that seeing that short preview was artistically more interesting than anything in "Cars 2." I'm looking forward to seeing more. There was also a preview for "The Lion King" in 3D. They played the entire "Circle of Life" intro and it was pretty impressive. Rather than looking like a simple Viewmaster presentation, they actually gave some depth to the characters. Mufasa's face is actually rounded, not a simple 2D cutout. As the preview played I realized a lot of the kids under 10 may have never seen "The Lion King," so it was entirely new to them. They're in for a treat.
What Didn't Work:
Watching "Cars 2" made me really realize what a big part of Pixar's formula for success is – originality. With the exception of "Toy Story 2" and "Toy Story 3," every one of their films is set in a new world with new designs, new characters, and new situations. There's a real sense of discovery in every Pixar movie which is part of the fun. And, unfortunately, "Cars 2" lacks that.Once you strip away the 'Wow!' factor of discovering a car themed world, you'd better have something more to offer. "Toy Story 2" did it by expanding on the world with 'Woody's Roundup' and 'The Evil Emperor Zurg.' "Toy Story 3" did it by putting the characters in a new home and tugging at the heartstrings. "Cars 2" doesn't have anything like that. The swap to the spy genre isn't enough by itself. And while it's fun to see the rest of the "Cars" world, it only goes so far.
"Cars 2" also relies on the very old story of mistaken identity. You take the idiot, put him in a dangerous situation, and hi-jinks ensue. It has been done in everything from "The Three Amigos" to "The Pink Panther" to "Condorman." It can work, but "Cars 2" doesn't really do anything new with it. This story is very predictable which makes it a bit of a letdown.
The first "Cars" movie had some great music. You had "Real Gone" by Sheryl Crow, the Rascal Flatts version of "Life is a Highway," and music by James Taylor, John Mayer, Randy Newman, and others. "Cars 2" lacks any memorable songs. Weezer does a version of "You Might Think" and Robbie Williams does "Collision of Worlds," but they're not anything you would rush to download on your iPod.
After I watched "Cars 2," I thought that the first "Cars" was better. But when I went back and looked at my review of that previous film, I actually rated it a 7 out of 10 just like the sequel. I guess my opinion of the first movie has softened with time. Still, despite the same rating, I still prefer the first "Cars" movie over this one.
The Bottom Line:
If you were to say that this is Pixar's worst movie, I would probably agree with you. But even Pixar's worst movie is better than the films that most studios put out there. Despite my gripes, I enjoyed it, my kids enjoyed it, and it was an entertaining trip to the movies. I recommend checking it out in theaters.