In 2006, Disney/Pixar released the film Cars, the second film in their roster to have an entirely non-human cast. The film was received with positive/mixed reception, scoring 74% on Rotten Tomatoes and 73/100 on MetaCritic, the lowest ratings that a Pixar film had received on either site. I was working in an electronics store when Cars hit DVD so I was able to watch it a few times and the film got the grow on me, so I purchased the DVD and invested about $30 into the franchise. Wasn't the absolute best Pixar film, but was still better than The Incredibles. Despite the lowest critical reception of the Pixar films, Disney kept pumping out Cars merchandise for years after the film's release, long before it was announced that there was a second film on the way.
On June 24, 2011, Cars 2 hit theatres and Imax, much to the delight of children and dread of haters of the first film everywhere. However, upon looking up reviews online and asking people on my friends list on Facebook, I was surprised how much negative feedback this film was getting. While the film was still a box office success, it was Pixar's worst reviewed film yet and is also their lowest grossing film in North America since A Bug's Life. So naturally, being a fan of the first film (my son also loves it) and being something of a glutton for punishment, I went out and rented Cars 2 the other night to answer the question: Is It That Bad?
I'm so glad they brought back Fillmore, with Lloyd Sherr replacing the late George Carlin.
The plot of Cars 2 starts out with secret agent Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) investigating supposed terrorist activity on an oil rig in the middle of the ocean. He finds one of his agents has been crushed into a cube and sees the terrorists looking at something resembling a video camera. McMissile takes some pictures of it but when the terrorists spot him, he leads them on a chase throughout the rig and actually manages to kill some of them (wait, what?) before escaping. Cut to Radiator Springs, where Mater (voiced again by Larry The Cable Guy) is meeting up with his BFF Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) after McQueen is returning from winning his fourth Piston Cup. While on a date with Sally (Bonnie Hunt), McQueen sees a promo for a new World Grand Prix sponsored by a new alternative fuel company that he was invited to. When one of the racers, Francesco Bernoulli (voiced by John Turturro), begins insulting McQueen on air, Mater calls the station and basically puts McQueen on the spot, so he accepts the invitation to the Grand Prix. However, the two paths cross at the Grand Prix and Mater is mistaken for the American operative that McMissile was supposed to meet up with in Tokyo and essentially, the fate of every car in the world is put in Mater's axles.
Francesco vs McQueen in Italy.
Visually, Cars 2 is right up there with Pixar's best work with great detail going into the environments and characters and many people who diss this movie will tell you that. However, what others are complaining about is the story and the characters (or more specifically, character) the film chooses to focus on. Honestly, I was not expecting a story quite of this caliber in Cars 2, considering how the first film was more like a fish-out-of-water where Mr. Hot Shot needed to learn what the more important things in life were (a premise not much different than the one shown in Thor). Here, it's basically a cross of James Bond & Mr. Bean with anthropomorphic vehicles and you know what? It's actually pretty fun. Kudos to Pixar with wanting to take this sequel in a different angle unlike the Toy Story series, where life changes seems to be the underlying theme of the first two films until it slaps you across the face in the third one (albeit Toy Story & Toy Story 2 remain my favorite Pixar films). In fact, there were some parts of Cars 2 that I thought were pretty intense for a kid's film, specifically the fact that they show cars being killed onscreen. At the same time, one of these somewhat on-screen kills was Bruce Campbell's character, which as we all know: killing off Bruce Campbell isn't in any way, shape or form cool.
The other big complaint that anyone who hated this movie has is that the film focuses too much on Mater. Most of the original cast of characters make return appearances in this one (except Doc Hudson), but they are basically cameos if nothing else, which is really too bad because I felt the first one didn't showcase some of the characters enough and I was hoping they'd fix some of that in this one, but no. Instead, they take a backseat to the new characters and Mater. Hell, even Lightning McQueen takes a bit of a backseat to his best friend. Does this bother me? Not as much as you'd think, really. First off, I don't have a problem with Larry The Cable Guy in this role, and I'm not one of those people who hate on him because it's cool to hate on him. He does far better as a voice actor than as a live action actor (anyone who's seen Delta Farce can confirm this) and I might even enjoy his work as Mater more than his standup bits, keyword being might. Also, let's think back to when the first Cars film came out for a minute. Who was the most popular character? Who was the one who had the kiddies in stitches and was the star of the animated short on the DVD? Yeah, Mater. Considering how much kids loved Mater, it only makes sense that they give him more screen time to appease the kids. Now, I'm not one of those lameasses who thinks that kid's movies can get away with fucking murder because they're kid's movies, but really, do you honestly think that Disney & Pixar wanted to aim this film equally to adults as they did kids? Let's not forget that Disney has a really nasty track record of killing their characters' parents. You know, the onscreen representation of their primary source of income? Of course they're more focused on keeping the kids happy, they already have your money. It's not like Mater doesn't learn anything by the end of the film either. Yeah, he realizes that he's a little out of control and tends to screw up...a lot. Yet, in the end, Mater is able to figure out who's behind this terrorist plot and, quite literally, almost gets himself killed to prove it. Yeah, the rusted tow truck has some serious balls by the end of the film.
One last thing I heard about Cars 2 is that there really isn't a lesson to be learned in this film. Not true: the whole purpose of Cars 2 is to show that A) If you truly consider someone your friend, you won't throw away what friendship you have over something as trivial as a trophy and are willing to forgive them for their faults, and B) You don't have to be the biggest, strongest or smartest person in the world to be important or to make a difference.
Mater is in this movie a lot. Deal with it.
So is Cars 2 really that bad? Absolutely not. Is it the best sequel ever made? No. Is it my favorite sequel ever? No. Is it better than the first? No, but considering some of the other Disney sequels out there, Cars 2 is without a doubt one of the better ones. Upon watching these films, it really does seem like people hate on these movies if for no other reason than because Larry The Cable Guy voices the most popular character in the two films. Personally, I had a blast with Cars 2 and I will gladly purchase this DVD down the road. Hell, I'm even game for a third Cars film, or even the spin-off Planes coming in 2013. So yeah, as far as I'm concerned, haters of this film, namely Kyle Smith of The New York Post, can blow it out their exhaust pipes.
P.S. Does anyone else out there think that this is a friggin' awesome picture?