Friday, June 24, 2011

Movie Review: Cars 2

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The animation continues to flow from Pixar. Cars 2 is their 12th animated feature. When the movie started they flashed a title card showing that they were celebrating their 25th anniversary. One lady in front of me said "No, that can't be" and another said "Must be...look it's right there" as she pointed to the screen. It started with Luxo Jr. in 1986 so, it would be 25 years. Funny that it started with a Jr and the current movie is a two!

Cars 2 Posters
Cars is not considered one of Pixar's best films, in fact many rank it towards the bottom of the list, if not the bottom. While not gathering the most critical acclaim, it has been very popular for Pixar and its parent company Disney because of the money they have made from the merchandising bonanza that the characters have been. Approximately $10 billion has been made in sales and the movie only came out in 2006. Hence one of the driving forces for the sequel. Maybe this is one that should have gone directly to blu-ray.

Before the main event like all Pixar films, we were treated to a short. The Toy Story ohana showed up for a Hawaiian Vacation. Taking place at their new residence, the toys are excited for a break because their new owner, Bonnie, is going with her family to Hawaii.
Mr Pricklepants and gang
When Ken and Barbie didn't successfully manage to sneak into Bonnie's luggage, the whole gang including new characters like Buttercup and Mr Prinklepants manages to treat Ken and Barbie to a Hawaiian vacation right there in the bedroom. Speaking of Mr Prinklepants, when I reviewed Toy Story 3 last year I mentioned about a Mr Prinklepants plush. It took the Disney store a while, but they finally got a plush and he now sits on my desk shelf overlooking me as I write and work on my computer. For the short, as a resident of Hawaii I found the jokes and stereotypes very funny. They only thing I think they missed was dropping a plug for the new Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa as the destination for Bonnie and her family which opens later this summer.

Into the meat and potatoes; Cars 2 reunites us with the gang in Radiator Springs. Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) is just waiting for Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) to come back from the Piston Cup circuit. The producers pay a little homage to Doc Hudson who was voiced by Paul Newman and passed away back in 2008. McQueen is ready to stay put until Mater unwittingly gets him entwined in a global race series to prove the worthiness of an alternative fuel. So Lightning plans to take Mater with him on the road to the countries of Japan, Italy and Great Britain for the World Grand Prix.

This is where the usual tight stories of Pixar started to unravel a bit. The movie instead of focusing on relationships got caught up in a spy story focusing on Mater. In Tokyo, blunder and mistake after lack of exposure to life outside of Radiator Springs results in a wrong place at the wrong time confusion with Finn McMissle (Michael Caine) and Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) of British Intelligence thinking Mater is actually an American Spy. So much for "British Intelligence."

So you have the master villain, the evil scientist, the big henchmen,the grandiose plan, the suave spy, the novice spy and the clueless just being himself bystander. All the components are there for a great story, but they fall short for a feature Pixar story. After the total emotional sequences from Toy Story 3 in its rites of passage ending, Carl and Ellie's love story at the beginning of Up and the connection between the robots of Wall-E and Eve on a scorched Earth in Wall-E, there weren't any highly emotional moments that would make a man suddenly develop allergies...if you know what I mean. Pixar is known for drawing out the emotion and it just wasn't there for this go around.

The animation was top notch as always, although at times it was over stimulating to the senses. I could appreciate all the details for the locations. The bright neon signs in Tokyo, the Odaiba Ferris Wheel, the rainbow bridge, all icons of the location. One of the really fun parts of the Cars universe is how they took items that are found in our real world in real cities and modified them to exist in theirs. Cars going through airport security, finding a capsule hotel and using a Japanese style bathroom are a few examples of the anthromorphization of the mobile pieces of metal be it ship, crane, plane, train or automobile. But I found myself overwhelmed by all these details and trying to pay attention for any easter eggs that may have been placed with the nooks and crannies of the movie knowing that there were over 60 hidden in Toy Story 3.

The visuals are complex, the story is a bit weak for a feature release; this is probably the first Pixar release that will only hit a single and not go beyond a double. The short ran for five minutes and 113 minutes for the main feature. There is no easter egg at the end of the movie but the credits are fun to watch. Kids will love the movie for the action of the spy genre and humor of Mater. Adults will go ho hum without the strong emotional hook. I have a feeling that Pixar in order to boost the numbers for the film will do like they did with A Bug's Life and release another version of the film in a few weeks that will contain bonus scenes, maybe scrapbook photos of our heroes in the different locations. Oh, the movie is rated G for general audiences.

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