Cars 2 * * 1/2

Genre: Animation

Directors: John Lasseter and Brad Lewis

Writer: Ben Queen

Voice Cast: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Eddie Izzard, John Turturro, Bonnie Hunt

Running Length: 105 minutes

Synopsis: Star racecar Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) and the incomparable tow truck Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy) take their friendship to exciting new places in Cars 2 when they head overseas to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix to determine the world’s fastest car. But the road to the championship is filled with plenty of potholes, detours and surprises when Mater gets caught up in an intriguing adventure of his own: international espionage. Torn between assisting Lightning McQueen in the high-profile race and towing the line in a top-secret spy mission, Mater’s action-packed journey leads him on an explosive chase through the streets of Japan and Europe, trailed by his friends and watched by the whole world. Adding to the fast-paced fun is a colorful new all-car cast that includes secret agents, menacing villains and international racing competitors.

Review: It had to happen eventually – Pixar has finally released a film that doesn’t meet up to the usual expectations that a Pixar film sets. It’s still a very decent animated film, but is very apparently the studio’s weakest offering to date. Perhaps it’s because Cars was already a tough sell (anthropomorphic cars are not easy to identify with), but Cars 2 comes up short especially in the areas which are usually Pixar’s strengths.

Cars 2 is the first Pixar film where I felt held very little interest for the adult viewers, and whilst young viewers will undoubtedly have a ball of a time, the storyline is never really emotionally engaging on any level. This comes as a surprise because the relationship stuff is usually the core of a Pixar film, but this seems to have been eschewed for obligatory, tacked-on mentions about not giving up on friends. There is also very little about Cars 2 that feels fresh, and unlike Toy Story, Cars 2 brings nothing new to the table at all, despite the spy movie angle and opening up the Cars universe to beyond Radiator Springs.

Whatever criticisms that can be leveled at the other aspects of the film, one thing that hasn’t changed is the visual quality of a Pixar film. This is a seriously good looking movie, and apart from the well-rendered cars themselves, there’s great attention to detail in the surroundings they are in. The 3D, however, is so minimal that one wonders why 3D was even touted to begin with. It’s definitely not gimmicky, but doesn’t add much to the viewing experience overall.

Perhaps it’s telling that even the animated short film that precedes Cars 2 feels perfunctory, unlike the usual gems that the studio produces. It features almost the full Toy Story cast, but other than a couple of laughs, feels more like an outtake reel of Toy Story 3. Hopefully this is merely an aberration in Pixar’s illustrious history, and not a sign of things to come.  

Rating: ** ½ (out of four stars)

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