Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cars 2

It's finally here, it's what my son has been waiting for since he saw that first teaser trailer almost a year ago. Ever since then my boy has been salivating to see what his old friends from Radiator Springs have been up to the last few years. When we saw Kung Fu Panda 2 it took me almost twenty minutes to pull him away from the Cars 2 Mural hanging in the lobby. Now every time we go to Target it only takes a half a minute to find himself knee deep in McQueen and Mater toys. (They have their own section, of course) I couldn't pry his fingers off of a talking Mater (The rusty tow truck) and now my wife and I are subjected to the musings of Mater and his, um, charming repertoire every day almost 24/7. The wife and I were skeptical though having seen the trailer and not understanding this new direction about spy cars and a somewhat contrived assassination plot against McQueen. I was also getting annoyed watching creator/director John Lasseter trying desperately to sound enthusiastic about taking Mater to foreign countries just to see how he would react. So after a false start on Saturday which led to crying and the GUILT,  we finally took him to the theatre on Sunday afternoon. Let me tell you, seeing that giddy look in his smile had to be the best thing I'd seen in a long time.
Unfortunately the giddiness was short lived, he loved the first thirty minutes or so and was excited to see the new car Finn McMissle and his old friends but after a little while he was hinting at leaving already. And why, that a child who has been so enraptured in the Cars universe for at least 2 years would be almost bored by the sequel? Please, allow me to explain. So apparently some time has passed in Radiator Springs, McQueen (Owen Wilson) is an accomplished race car driver having won 4 Piston Cups and is settling in to his new home in Radiator Springs. It just seems like McQueen's character is completely fulfilled, which is why he takes a pretty big back seat in this movie. The new focus is on Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) who finds himself Forest Gumping his way in and out of trouble in this new film. Mater accidentally gets his old buddy caught up in a dare to join an international race in London, Japan and Italy. Which also allows McQueen to test his mettle against International racing sensation Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro). McQueen takes Mater along and as Lasseter explained in the promo trailers, the fish out of water jokes never stop, sometimes to the detriment of the film. So cool super spy, Astin Martin, Finn McMissle (Michael Caine) and his new recruit Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) mistake Mater for an American spy, and you can imagine what happens next.
The problem with this sequel, and the reason that Nathan was bored is that they sidelined all the fun and interesting characters from the first movie, they also solved McQueen's problems and found themselves with nothing to do so they created this subplot about spies and evil oil Barons. Although it was clever making the bad guys Lemons, (Gremlins, Pinto's etc.) the most disrespected cars in the world and the ones most likely to start committing crimes. The biggest problem here though is Mater, who is best in small doses is now elevated to leading man status and it doesn't quite work. Now Nathan loves Mater, for comic relief purposes, but the star of the show should be Lightning McQueen and the races but as the film continued it made me think they should have just renamed the sequel Trucks instead. This plot was just way over Nathan and probably Mater's head and it's a shame because he loves these characters so much. I know people say that Cars is the worst of the Pixar bunch and on first viewing I would probably agree, but there is a lot of heart and some really great characters in that first film not to mention the late great Paul Newman as Doc Hudson.Which is sadly missing in this one. They do give a shout out to Doc and I assume a wink to Paul Newman as well. I was surprised that they found someone to fill in for Filmore who was voiced by the late great George Carlin. The rest of the crew from Radiator Spring's is largely marginalized to one-liners and cameos. The whole film sort of reminded me of the five minute snippet from the first film when a very arrogant Lightning McQueen wishes he could sell out and be a big time movie star in his own spy thriller. I guess that all kind of came true in some way.
Overall I enjoyed some of the new cars like Finn McMissle and Holly Shiftwell but they honestly should have been in a different movie. McQueen and Mater just didn't fit so well in this plot and it really shows. If you have a child between the ages of 3 and 6 as much as they may love McQueen and Cars this one may be too much for them to fully understand and there is a chance that it will bore rather than thrill. Although in the end Nathan was very content, he did ask to go home once or twice but he still had a nice smile after the film even though I could tell he didn't really follow it very well. Oh, and by the way the Toy Story short was really fun, in fact I think I liked the short more than the actual film. But that's only because Lasseter and the Pixar guys only seem to put more energy and love into their Toy Story sequels. But Cars 2 is still a good summer flick to take your kid to, honest.  But now that the excitement of McQueen and Mater is over in our household I'm setting my sights on Winnie the Pooh. It's a great trailer and Nathan seems pretty pumped about that one too. So many kids flicks this Summer!
Grade: 2 and a half Buckets - Kid Bucket: 3 Buckets

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Hangover Part II

The Wolfpack is back in second installment of the series. The question you want to ask is it funny? The answer is certainly yes. The only problem that will probably make this review shorter than normal is that it is exactly the same plot and beats as the first film. You put in the exception of Thailand and swap out a few characters and you basically have the same movie. After the film was finished I was a little perplexed. On one level I really enjoyed it, I mean it still was pretty fucking funny. But I also just felt cheated that they couldn't go with a more original plotline. I mean many sequels I know do tend to go this route but it's been a while since I've seen one that took that to the extreme.
Stu (Ed Helms), Phil (Bradley Cooper) & Alan (Zach Galifianakis) are up to their old hijinks but this time they are in Bangkok, where the danger just got amped up a notch. Poor Doug (Justin Bartha) doesn't get left behind this time but he does get muscled out, somehow, from the adventure altogether. This time Stu is about to marry into a strict Thai family and the pack ends up losing the family's genius son, brother of his soon to be wife, Teddy (Mason Lee). They have a day and a half to track down Teddy or they apparently lose him forever to the city that claims so many lost souls. (It's kind of a theme in the movie.)
It was nice seeing more of Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) and bringing in Paul Giamatti as a drug runner was interesting and the stakes are certainly a lot higher now that they are in another country especially one as dangerous as Bangkok, but I could pretty much check my watch and time when the local mafia turns up and when the best time for Stu to sing his "we are shit out of luck" song. I mean if I were to play the first Hangover at the same time as this one would Stu start singing at the hour and a half mark? Alan is a bit more annoying and therefore at times is hard to stomach, I like Galifianakis, but his schtick is starting to wear a little thin in this film. Bradley Cooper seems a little bored with his role this time out as he kind of sleep walks through it. But Ed Helms is great as always and he's the standout in my mind this time around. I'm actually looking forward to Hangover part III I just hope they change it up a bit and go with something a little different. I heard something about busting Alan out of a Psych ward. Ok, I'm down with that, just stop with the losing people plotline, and please, please no more Mike Tyson. It's not really that funny, it just seems kind of sad.
Grade: 3 Buckets (Although it really should be 2 and 1/2 but I just had so much fun with it)