I’m starting to see a trend with animated sequels this summer- studios wowing us with cool special effects but thinking we’ll overlook their weak story lines.
Cars 2 centers around Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater’s trip abroad, as McQueen competes in a multi-city World Grand Prix. The story is mainly about the lovable, obtuse sidekick Mater this time while McQueen plays a supporting role.
Much lonelier than the first film, when friends were plentiful and always there to lend a hand, Mater is left to figure things out on his own as he unknowingly becomes embroiled in a spy scheme while in, what to him are, strange new lands.
The film begins with a James Bond opening- a car chase and lots of bang, bang, shoot’em-up sequences. One of the first spoken lines of the movie is “Kill him!” There are several electrocutions along the way too. There were many times I thought of the G-rated movies of my own youth, and couldn’t believe I was sitting through one then.
There are plenty of Anti-American jabs as the duo travel through Europe. For instance one Brit asks another about Mater, “Is he American?” to which the other replies, “Very.”
To be fair, there are also jokes about Italians being mama’s boys. But the English are definitely the most attractive and smart while Americans are definitely the buffoons. Maybe I was extra sensitive that day, seeing it so soon after the pride of celebrating the 4th of July, but those parts irked me.
The movie makes statements about alternative fuel and other themes that were way too much for the G-rated crowd again. Coupled with the witty, Tina Fey banter, I was confused what audience the movie was targeting, kids or adults? Or maybe the kinds of cartoons aimed towards teens. I still don’t know.
The best part of the movie was the originality and detail that went into the effects, which really are stunning. There’s a scene when two cars are trapped inside Big Ben in London (or I think it’s Big Benz in the movie), the cranks and shafts rotate in perfect unison and look so real I marveled at how far computer animation has come.
I also enjoyed the smart car humor. Mater is mortified that he “leaks oil” in public and the play on words is constant. For instance, they visit “Towkyo” to kick off the international race. Though the puns mostly went over my kids’ heads, as I’m sure they did the other under 10s in attendance, the jokes weren’t lost on the adults. Like in the original Cars, the all-car cast of characters all had great names like Axelrod and Shiftwell.
There just wasn’t a linear, substantive overall plot.
My young daughters were bored stiff and I couldn’t wait for it to end either. I felt like I was watching a guy movie, but it was G-rated, and a cartoon, but it is a sequel to an original we all loved, and even my older kids didn’t really get most of it.
By the end, even Mater grated on my nerves.
The first Cars movie came out in 2006, when my now 7 and 9-year-olds were tiny. They zoomed their little Lightning McQueen cars around then, and I think they were looking forward to the sequel. I thought possibly they’re aging the franchise with its viewers, just like Harry Potter. But then why is Cars 2 rated G? And why, as my son informed me, is the Cars 2 video game rated for ages 10 and up but the movie is for general audiences?
This movie made me yearn for the Disney movies of my youth, when movies were light on effects but heavy on story lines and morals for little kids. Movies as recent as Toy Story 3 achieve both.
Cars 2 is another movie that aims to show all the tricks it’s got, and little else.