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Saturday, 4 February 2012
"Cars 2" - Review
Cars may have been one of the less well-regarded Pixar movies, but that didn't stop John Lasseter from getting behind the wheel again for this week's sequel. It's Lasseter's passion for all things automotive that drives the follow-up, which has a co-directing credit for Brad Lewis. Cars 2 lacks the storytelling wit of Toy Story 3, Up and WALL-E, being the animation outfit's first movie in a while that plays broadly for children. However, it's still a breezily entertaining spy caper that owes a debt to early globe-trotting adventures of James Bond.
Widening the scope from the first's Radiator Springs location, Cars 2 kicks off with a thrilling infiltration of an oil platform by Finn McMissile, a spy car suavely voiced by Michael Caine and resembling Sean Connery's Goldfinger Aston Martin. Meanwhile, racer Lightning McQueen is feeling stagnant at home and agrees to takes up a challenge from flamboyant Italian Formula 1 car Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro) to race in the World Grand Prix. Tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) hitches along for the ride and ends up embarrassing his pal in front of the racing elite high-fliers, including Lewis Hamilton in a cameo role and tournament sponsor Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard). In a case of classic Hitchcockian mistaken identity, Mater inadvertently finds himself pulled into an espionage mission with McMissile and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer).
Tokyo, Italy (the fictional town of Porto Corsa) and London provide the backdrops as Cars 2 unfolds as a high-octane spy movie. The film gains traction as an action picture in the final third when events move to the UK for the final leg of the Grand Prix. The capital is rendered in stunning detail as cars whizz by the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace, even leaving room for cameos for the Queen (voiced by Vanessa Redgrave) and Prince William (here called 'Wheeliam'). A memorable sequence inside Big Ben[tley] also puts the heroes in a ticking clock jam that'd stump even the most resourceful blockbuster hero.
As with much of Pixar's work, the theme of friendship is underlined. Here it's Lightning and Mater charged with providing the emotional backbone, but the pair lack the charm and warmth of Woody/Buzz, WALL-E/Eve and Carl/Russell. It's possible that cars - man-made machines - don't quite capture the imagination, connect on a universal level or have the same power to pull on the heartstrings the way previous Pixar stars have. More likely, though, is the lack of storytelling polish on display. Aesthetically Cars 2 is as accomplished as anything the studio has done, but look under the bonnet and the script doesn't quite have the sophistication to shift into top gear. The movie is preceded by short Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation, a super little 5-minute reminder of just how good Pixar can be.