That sound you hear is the screeching of brakes on the seemingly unstoppable Pixar express. After 15 years of peerless computer animation and cinematic magic, the Pixar juggernaut has come to a severe end with Cars 2. A follow-up to their 2006 charmer Cars, this year’s annual Pixar entry lacks everything that makes their movies so good. Missing the emotion, pathos and laughs (for anyone over the age of ten) Cars 2 places merchandising revenue over quality entertainment, with the film being excessive and overwrought in every department.
Not so much a sequel as it is a spinoff, Cars 2‘s directors and writers – of which there are many – have decided to ditch the sweet, ode-to-Americana ambience that made the original so wonderful, and have switched it into a “high octane” spy thriller. Lightning McQueen, voiced by Owen Wilson (Marmaduke), is no longer the star, instead we get nearly two hours of redneck-voiced, stand-up comedian Larry the Cable Guy as Mater, a rickety old tow truck who gets involved with Bond-style agent spies Finn McMissile (Michael Caine, Gnomeo & Juliet) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer, The Pink Panther 2) in a race to discover – and I’m not making this up – who is fixing the world’s oil and petroleum prices on the pro-racing circuit.
No flight of fanciful imagination was second-guessed in the making of Cars 2, as a “more is more” mentality is in full effect. There are talking cars and talking planes, plus talking ships and talking trains. Strange, vaguely racist, national stereotypes are wheeled out as if they’re still acceptable with scenes featuring automobile geishas! And, of course, a trip to Britain features a royal family made up entirely out of cars. The queen even wears a tiara on her roof!
And then there are the voices – Larry the Cable Guy was fine in smaller doses as the sidekick in Cars, but as the lead he has a grating presence that’s like nails on a chalkboard. Wilson, Caine and Mortimer sound bored and no new characters are as memorable as Bonnie Hunt or John Turturro who, like the rest of Radiator Springs, are all but shunted to the sidelines presumably to introduce new Happy Meal toys.
As a big fan-bigger than most people, actually – of Cars it is so disappointed to see John Lasseter and his team go down this route of corporate greed. There is nothing here to justify a sequel, other than the merchandising revenue. What they have given us is a limp, over-stuffed film that lacks class. The heart has been removed and replaced by gunfire, explosions and noise. It’s carnage on the highway.
Cars 2 is released in Australia on June 23rd and features a Toy Story short film beforehand
Directors: John Lasseter & Brad Lewis
Cast: Larry the Cable Guy, Owen Wilson, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Eddie Izzard, John Turturro, Bonnie Hunt, Thomas Kretschmann, Joe Montegna and Vanessa Redgrave.