Rust never sleeps in Pixar folly

Kapi-Mana News - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT -

CARS 2 (3-D) Star­ring (the voices of) Larry The Cable Guy, Owen Wil­son, Michael Caine, Emily Mor­timer, Ed­die Iz­zard, John Tur­turro, Joe Man­tegna. Screen­play by Ben Queen, di­rected by John Las­seter, Brad Lewis. 113 min­utes, rated PG (coarse lan­guage). Show­ing at Light House Pau­ata­hanui, Read­ing Cin­e­mas North City.

If there was a Pixar movie cry­ing out for a se­quel, it cer­tainly wasn’t Cars. Lum­bered with a tired, sports movie sto­ry­line and char­ac­ters that lacked the emo­tional en­gage­ment of the stu­dio’s other hot prop­er­ties, the 2006 pic­ture about a rac­ing car who finds hu­mil­ity in the back­wa­ters of Route 66 was a pretty – but pretty va­cant – ex­pe­ri­ence.

Yet here we are in 2011 and Cars 2 has de­scended on pic­ture the­atres with a pub­lic­ity ma­chine big­ger than any mo­tor you’ll find in its an­i­mated world of hu­man­is­tic cars. Never un­der­es­ti­mate the power of mer­chan­dise – of which Cars has few ri­vals in the toy shop. Too cyn­i­cal? Per­haps John Las­seter and com­pany re­alised they had dropped their stan­dards on the first pic­ture and wanted to make amends.

Cer­tainly its se­quel is a rad­i­cal de­par­ture from the ‘‘slow down and find your­self in a small town’’ theme of Cars, with the world ex­panded far be­yond Ra­di­a­tor Springs for a jet-set­ting spy caper that takes in Europe’s most ex­otic lo­ca­tions.

Owen Wil­son’s sporty red fire­brand Light­ning McQueen is even rel­e­gated to a sup­port­ing role.

The open­ing scene is awe­some.

Finn McMis­sile ( voiced by Michael Caine – dou­ble awe­some) in­fil­trates an ocean oil rig where a syn­di­cate of ‘‘ bad cars’’ are un­veil­ing a se­cret weapon.

When McMis­sile is dis­cov­ered an epic es­cape en­sues, full of nifty spy gad­getry and ex­plo­sive ef­fects.

The ac­tion is clever, the di­a­logue crisp and the 3-D suit­ably wow­ing – par­tic­u­larly the dark, rolling ocean waves.

So James Bond on wheels, you say? I wish. Johnny English is the more ap­pro­pri­ate com­par­i­son. You say Tow Mater, I say too an­noy­ing. McQueen’s rust bucket best friend, voiced by Larry the Cable Guy, gen­er­ated a few slap­stick laughs in the first movie thanks to his buck-toothed, yokel id­iot sta­tus.

A lit­tle grat­ing, but for the most part harm­less – and the kids loved him.

It seems that last part counted for ev­ery­thing, be­cause Cars 2 is Mater’s movie, in which he gets mis­taken for an Amer­i­can spy and un­wit­tingly mixed in with McMis­sile’s mis­sion: to stop a se­cret so­ci­ety of bit­ter ‘‘lemons’’ from ru­in­ing the World Grand Prix that McQueen is rac­ing in.

Surely a mis­taken iden­tity farce has rarely looked as gor­geous as Cars 2, but it doesn’t save it from be­ing shock­ingly hack­neyed, and Mater ex­haust­ing and frus­trat­ing for view­ers over the age of 10.

I can en­joy a ‘‘leaked oil’’ gag as much as the next dude, but there’s too lit­tle wit or charm to bal­ance Mater’s dumb and dum­ber rou­tine, and Pixar’s usual pull on the heart­strings hasn’t even been at­tempted. The hanky that never left your side in Toy Story 3 or Wall · E will stay deep in your pocket.

While this is eas­ily Pixar’s least adult-friendly pic­ture, the lit­tle ones will be in toon heaven.

The story’s break­neck pace ensures there’s no place for Sun­day driv­ers; the ac­tion is plen­ti­ful and the colour pal­ette will in­tox­i­cate eyes both young and old.

But I can’t help think­ing a se­quel to Mon­sters Inc or The In­vin­ci­bles would have done all this and a lot more.

Im­por­tant no­tice: Don’t be late to your seat, the Toy Story short is very charm­ing; and leave as soon as the cred­its roll – Brad Pais­ley and Rob­bie Wil­liams’ Col­li­sion of Worlds may well be the worst song ever writ­ten for a mo­tion pic­ture. 2 proves you can have too much of a goof thing, as dimwit­ted pickup Tow Mater, pic­tured with English spy Finn McMis­sile, dom­i­nates the pic­ture to ex­haust­ing ef­fect.

Mind over Mater: Cars

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