Friday, December 23, 2011

Cars 2

Directed by John Lasseter and Brad Lewis.
2011. Rated G, 106 minutes.
Owen Wilson
Larry the Cable Guy
Michael Caine
Emily Mortimer
Eddie Izzard
John Turturro
Bonnie Hunt
Joe Mantegna
Peter Jacobson
Brent Musberger

The original Cars introduced us to Lightning McQueen (Wilson), a championship racecar who finds himself stuck in a small town. Before getting back to the big city, fame and glory he learns some homespun values, lessons about humility and makes some friends along the way. Most notably he gets the girl, Sally (Hunt) and becomes best buds with Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). It was okay. Overhyped and overrated, but it made goo-gobs of money. That there would be a sequel was inevitable so here we are.

Given the events of that first movie, it’s only logical that the second would follow McQueen as he continues his career in big time racing, but with his new found friends along for the ride. It sort of gives us this, but not really. The sequel is actually an international spy thriller starring Larry the Cable Guy and Michael Caine. Um…okaaaayy. I’ll give you the short version. Sir Miles Axelrod (Izzard) has developed an alternative fuel named Allinoll and is inviting all the fastest racers in the world to compete in a three race series using it. Someone is sabotaging these races mainly by killing off the competitors during the events. Hmmm…a little dark for a G-rated kiddie flick but I’m game. Anyhoot, it’s up to super sleuth Finn McMissile (Caine) and his sidekick Holly Shiftwell (Mortimer) to stop the madness. Yes, they accidentally involve Tow Mater, mistaking him for a fellow spy.

As with lots of sequels, this one does everything bigger. There is more racing, more action, more jokes, etc. Narratively, it doesn’t hold together as well as its predecessor. How can it? It’s trying to reconcile two incompatible storylines and subjugates the main character of the first movie to the lesser of them. On the other hand, it is simply more fun. Where the first lumbers along at a Romero zombie’s pace until it reaches its Aesop-like moral of the story, this one zips along from one action sequence to the next. True, it culminates in a quick commercial for bio-degradable fuel but it doesn’t lecture us about it.

Cars 2 is the rare instance where the action driven sequel is at least equal to, if not greater than the plot propelled original. The first time around I got the sense that the kids enjoyed the marketing campaign far more than the actual movie. The toys, video games, books and tons of other stuff were all huge hits. However, judging from my own kids, nephews and nieces included, I never felt like it was one of their favorites. This time, the opposite seems to be true. I haven’t seen a ton of Cars 2 merchandise floating around but the movie is more enjoyable.

MY SCORE: 6/10

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