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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 24, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 25
Motorized Cars 2 an agreeable sequel
Arts & Entertainment
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Motorized Cars 2 an agreeable sequel

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

Cars 2
Opening June 24


After another successful season where he won his fourth consecutive Piston Cup, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) has returned to the comfy confines of Radiator Springs to spend some quality time with girlfriend Sally (Bonnie Hunt) and best friend Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). But rest and relaxation are out of the question when Italian champion Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro) challenges the U.S. superstar to accompany him on an international three-race event sponsored by alternative energy proponent Sir Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard). The hometown crew - including an exuberant Mater - agrees to join Lightning as he sets out for Japan to prove hes the worlds fastest racer.

Everything is not what it seems. British spy Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) has learned that Axelrods race is a front for something sinister, and intelligence expert Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) assists him in trying to uncover the truth. The pair inadvertently mistake Mater for a CIA agent, and the bubbly and likeable tow truck suddenly finds himself embroiled in the middle of a massive conspiracy that puts his friend Lightning in mortal danger.

I cant say I was looking forward to Cars 2. The 2006 original is probably my least-favorite Pixar release (which is a roundabout way of saying its still a three-star achievement and better than almost any other animated family flick released in a given year), and while it certainly had its pleasures, a sequel was the last thing I felt the world needed. It was well-done kiddie fare, nothing more, and while John Lasseter and company had nothing to feel ashamed of with Cars, they certainly didnt change the game like they had done before (Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles) and after (Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up) the films release.

While still not up to Pixars usual unbelievably high standards, Im happy to report that Cars 2 is an enchanting and enjoyable automotive frolic thats extremely hard to dislike. Capturing the spirit of old Saturday-morning cartoons, most notably of the Hanna-Barbera variety, the movie is a witty adventure kids will adore and parents will get a pretty decent kick out of. Filled with eye-popping animation, some solidly inventive gags, and a plot thats more interesting than it has any right to be, this sequel is a minor step up from the original.

Ben Queens screenplay, working from a story by Lasseter, Brad Lewis, and Dan Fogelman (Tangled, Bolt), isnt as clever as it thinks it is, and it throws in about as many James Bond clich├ęs as possible with an obvious wink. The central plot does strain a bit under the almost two-hour running time, and some of the stuff during the midsection plods along in a nondescript manner that feels more Disney Channel or DreamWorks than it does Pixar. Theres lots of filler, and one could easily have imagined this as a 45-minute short instead of a feature-length motion picture.

At the same time, switching the focus and making Mater the main character and Lightning the sidekick was a stroke of genius, and as little as I like Larry the Cable Guy, as the voice of a tow truck, hes terribly difficult not to be fond of. His journey is what makes up the heart of this adventure, and watching him discover the hero hidden within him is one of the films beguilingly simple pleasures.

Additionally, it pretty much goes without saying that the vocal work, like always, is extraordinary. The Pixar gang has cast this one to perfection, and from the central characters to the bit players, nothing feels false or out of place. On top of that, there are some simply divine sight gags and bits of verbal jousting that had me giggling uncontrollably, while a quick stop in a small Italian village is as sublime as it is beautiful.

Cars 2 doesnt add up to much substance, but Im not exactly sure it needs to. Its a smoothly enjoyable ride pretty much from start to finish, and speed bumps are few and far between. As sequels go, theres little to dislike, and while Pixar has certainly done better, this pleasant summertime detour is as relaxing a cinematic drive as any I could have hoped for.

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