Monday, January 2, 2012

12-30-11: The Name's Mater, Tow Mater

CARS 2 (2011) (G) 106 mins. **1/2 D: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis. Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer.

After entering the World Grand Prix, Lightning brings Mater along for the ride. Upon arrival Mater unknowingly becomes involved in international espionage with danger around every turn.

"Cars" was my least favorite Pixar film, now this is. I appreciate sequels that try to change things up. Go in a different direction, tell a different story, looking at the previous one through a different vantage point. So why didn't I like "Cars 2?" It's international. Yes. It's a whole new story. Yes. What's the problem? It lacks originality. The spy homage has been done to death that the results are very dull. In fact, it felt like the original story was Lightning McQueen enters the World Grand Prix but then they realized there isn't enough story to maintain a full feature. The spy plot felt tacked on. As a result, this sequel basically becomes Mater's story and the star of the original is relegated to supporting status. It's kinda like taking the "Lethal Weapon" franchise and making the fifth film all about Leo Getz.

What surprised me, and usually I never hone in on stuff like that, was the level of violence for a G rated film. The cars are essentially people. Well throughout, cars are pretty much killed by both the good guys and bad guys. Now sure "The Incredibles" had violence in it but that was a comic book movie and it was very much part of that world. The tone from the original has shifted so drastically from the simple and genial world of Radiator Springs. McQueen repeatedly tells Mater that "This isn't Radiator Springs." I guess the audience needs to take that one to heart as well.

When I heard they were making a sequel to my least favorite Pixar film I had to ask why. I just wished they took the same time, effort and pride that they did with "Toy Story 3." I really wanted to like this, I enjoy the spy genre, but I just found it only passably amusing and only sporadically entertaining.

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