Friday, June 24, 2011

Movie Review: Cars 2

Cars 2 is something of a conundrum. It is, as you've no doubt heard, not Pixar's best. In fact, it seems nestled securely in the spot second from the bottom, just above A Bug's Life and just below the original Cars. But this is an overall assessment: Cars 2 is dragged down by its average. Taken as a whole, the movie is mixed. Fortunately, in this case, that's a misleading metric.

To understand Cars 2, you must understand the movie's hierarchy of leads. The main focus of the movie is Mater. Yes, Larry the Cable Guy is indisputably the star. Wilson's Lightning McQueen isn't even #2: that's a tie between two new characters, Finn McMissile and Holley Shiftwell, a pair of British secret agents. Once the movie gets going, Lightning McQueen is relegated to a B-plot about racing, while Mater helps the British spies try and save the world.

Mater is, of course, annoying. The character is as cloying as ever, and the decision to base a movie around him was ill-advised. On top of that, the dialogue throughout lacks the wit and energy we've come to expect from Pixar.

On the other hand, the visuals remain crisp and intriguing, and the world-building is fun and engrossing. These aren't the reasons we're giving the movie our recommendation, however. That, unfortunately, involves spoilers. If you're already planning to see Cars 2 in the theater, you may want to stop here. If not, keep reading: we may change your mind.

Cars 2 is the single most violent G-rated movie we've ever seen.

When we say that Cars 2 is in part a spy movie, we mean that lives are at stake. And when we say that Finn McMissile is James Bond's car, we're not just referring to his make and gadgets. Finn McMissile smiles and tells jokes. He has a sense of humor about him and seems to enjoy his work. But make no mistake: he is a blunt object, a stone-cold killer who doesn't pull punches or hesitate to pull the trigger.

And for good reason: the villains are even more ruthless. We see a captured agent - a good guy - tortured and killed. Horribly. In a G-rated kid's film. And believe us when we say that isn't the most horrific thing in the movie. This movie isn't afraid to get its hands dirty. For that reason, we're willing to overlook an awful lot of bad slapstick involving a rusty tow truck.

The gorgeous settings overlaid with music composed by Michael Giacchino didn't hurt either.

Cars 2 is a G-rated film with a shocking level of violence downplayed by the fact the characters are inhuman and the medium is animation. It's badly written, yet fascinatingly rendered. It panders to its youngest viewers with the most obnoxious character Pixar's ever produced, while shifting back and forth between spies and cutthroat assassins in sequences reminiscent of classic Bond.

As we said before, it's not as good a movie as Cars 1. However, we enjoyed it more. Because, for all its faults, it's a hell of a ride.

Three stars on the Pixar scale. The critics aren't exactly wrong when they lambast this as an inferior product, but we still think there's an awful lot to like here.

1 comment:

John Prue said...

Well, this is a new take on the film. I've never considered this point of view that the high octane action (excuse the pun) of Cars 2 is violent, but yes, a spy film is usually about goons, deception and conspiracy. It's not a mediocre film after all.

John Prue