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

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