Rust never sleeps in Pixar folly
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