A Pixar cash bonanza prompted and the results are not amusing, writes Tara Brady
HARDCORE PIXAR fans were rightly bewildered when news emerged that everybody’s favourite animation studio was toiling on a sequel to Cars.
The 2006 film, Pixar’s only critical dud, attempted to marry crudely retro anthropomorphic automobiles to sumptuous hyper-realistic backgrounds; the effect was uninspiring, jarring and Americentric. The plot, too, preached about slowing down to smell the roses, a neo-Luddite manifesto that seemed entirely at odds with gas-guzzling heroes and the film’s target demographic.
So why have we been saddled with an uninspiring, jarring and
Americentric sequel? Unhappily, there’s no market for 78-year-old action figures and their flying houses. But kids will always love saying “vroom” and running anything with wheels across carpeted terrain.
Thus Cars 2, a pointless, mostly meritless thing, seems to exist as a showcase for digitised scenery – look here, it’s a perfect facsimile of London in the distance – and as leverage for lunchbox sales. Somebody in the House of the Hopping Desk Lamp has decided that the gazillions of dollars’ worth of merchandise generated by the original film is not to be sniffed at: and to hell with the heart-warming narrative strengths that have previously defined the animation studio’s output.
As any proud owner of Hulk hands might tell you, good toys and good franchise prospects do not necessarily make for good movies. Lightning McQueen and chums may shift duvet covers but box office figures reveal that family audiences are just not buying the Cars universe; indeed, it’s Pixar’s least successful theatrical release to date.
The second instalment, moreover, doesn’t make any more sense than the last one. What do the cars need all those houses for? How come some cars are sentient while dump trucks and tractors are dumb beasts? What does McQueen actually do with his drippy girlfriend when they’re alone? We’re quite sure, as well, that an automobile’s eyes are supposed to be its headlights, not its window-screen. And as for casting Michael Caine as a superspy Aston Martin: well, everybody knows Michael Caine is a Mini.
Worse still, Cars 2 takes the least appealing, most obnoxious character from the first film – Mater the Tow-Truck, the franchise’s answer to Scrappy Doo – and gives him centre stage. Mater, the wildly unpopular, spitting, low-falutin’, subnormal caricature of poor, dumb white trash is about as tolerable in the lead role as you’d expect. Not since Smokey and the Bandit 3 attempted to gyp us with Jerry Reed in lieu of Burt Reynolds has a sequel been so unkind to its audience.
This is typical of the cynical, Cars 2. The tech specs and 3D are impressive but somehow it doesn’t feel like a Pixar film; it feels instead like one of the cruder, potty-minded earlier DreamWorks animations. Just as Shark Tale relied entirely on stunt casting and watching fish act like saucy people – remember the shark’s Catholic Mafioso funeral? – Mater’s wit extends to making analogies between oil leaks and bodily functions. The screenplay’s attempts at humour are weaker still; in London we find Big Bentley, The Incredimobiles plays at local cinemas.
There is some class of plot, though it’s light years from the charming feats of storytelling found in Pixar’s most recent pictures Toy Story 3, Up and Wall-E. A slapdash Scary Movie-inspired espionage parody sees the dreaded Mater team up with British intelligence operatives Finn McMissile (Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) in an attempt to uncover the evil mastermind behind a series of explosions on the racing track.
Could it be that Sir Miles Axelrod (Izzard) has placed too much faith in his company’s new alternative fuel? Or is a conspiracy of “lemon” cars attempting to grab the world’s remaining oil reserves? The results are hyperkinetic and loud enough to occasionally distract some ADHD hotrod from smearing gum on the seat in front. But only occasionally. Lemon indeed.
Flamin’ hell: he’d drive through fire to flog lunchboxes