Friday, June 24, 2011

Cars 2

Review by Pete Roche

A child often pretends his action figure is a real soldier on a real adventure.  But he seldom creates a voice and back-story for the tank G.I. Joe is driving.  It’s easy to anthropomorphize dolls; half the job’s already done.  They’re made in our image.  Vehicles, not so much.

Which is probably why TOY STORY works so well, whereas CARS stalls.

Welcome back to the only Pixar planet where people don’t exist, and where—logic dictates—food, toilets, clocks, and knock-out gas shouldn’t, either.  It’s a world populated by cars, trucks, boats, and airplanes with the personalities of the humans who would likely pilot them. 

The premise of the original 2006 film always made me wonder who made these jalopies.  Are they born?  Do they dieCARS 2 suggests they do: “Doc” Hudson’s taken the highway to heaven, and other autos are eradicated (off screen) during what is essentially a spy spoof wherein lowbrow tow-truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) plays secret agent while globetrotting with four-time Piston Cup champ Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson).

Lightning’s just returned to Radiator Springs to fine-tune his relationship with girl-car Sally (Bonnie Hunt’s Porsche) when he’s goaded into the World Grand Prix by vainglorious Italian stockcar Francesco Bernoulli (a terrific John Turturro).  The high-profile contest is sponsored by alternative energy guru Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard’s jeep), who supplies competitors with his environment-friendly Allinol fuel.  But someone—er, some car—sabotages the cartoon Cannonball Run by bombarding racers with EMPs, to disastrous results.

Fans of #95 will be disappointed to learn Lightning’s barely in the sequel.  CARS 2 is all about buck-toothed Mater, whose big adventure begins after a couple “lemon” thug-mobiles (a Pacer and a Gremlin) mistake him for an American operative.  Also fooled are Mater’s British counterintelligence counterparts Finn McMissile (Michael Caine’s sleek Aston Martin / BMW hybrid) and Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer), who recruit the rusty redneck to help determine who’s behind the plot.  Gadget-bedazzled Finn thinks Mater’s charming hillbilly demeanor is just a ruse, and a brilliant one at that.

Lightning—who ostracizes Mater for his clumsiness early on—becomes little more than a moving target.  He regrets insulting his friend, but the Rust-Eze pit crew (Cheech Marin, Tony Shaloub, et al) convince him to race despite a guilty conscience.  Can’t blame Wilson if he phoned it in; the writers didn’t give him much gas for guzzlin’.

Directed by TOY STORY genius John Lassiter, CARS 2 is an auto espionage tale with slick sets (Finn’s 007 gambit on an oil rig is choice) and plenty of pedal-to-the-metal action for the ADD crowd.  We’re treated to cutesy Manga-mobiles in Tokyo, a chase in Paris, a family reunion outside Roma, and a climactic showdown in London presided over by Her Majesty’s auto-analog.  Celebrity sportscaster Brent Musburger voices a version of himself, as do NASCAR / Formula One champs Jeff Gordon and Lewis Hamilton.  And yes, Pixar prince John Ratzenberger is back as Mack (a cameo for continuity).  Weezer’s spin on The Cars classic “You Might Think” makes effective montage music.

But good luck to toddlers trying to follow Mater’s clunky caper.  There’s just too many twists on the track. The 3-D enhances nothing save your admission cost, but the delightful TOY STORY vignette “Hawaiian Vacation” (preceding the feature) will ease parents’ pain.  2 ½ out of 4 stars.

1 comment:

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