Review: “Cars 2”
For whatever reason, my kids didn’t want to see Cars and we even missed it on cable and home video. When word spread that it was good but not Pixar’s best feature, there wasn’t a lot of desire among the family to check it out. The same feeling arrived this June when the inevitable sequel, spurred by enough box office revenues and massive merchandise success, arrived. We empty-nesters just couldn’t muster the desire to go see the film, despite an engaging trailer and a love for all things Pixar.
The home video release of the movie this coming week remedied this void in my Pixar knowledge. The movie is entertaining enough, moving at, appropriately enough, a racing clip; it reintroduces the established characters, moves them to a new setting and gives audiences (and merchandisers) some new players. Hilarity ensues for 106 minutes and the film itself is entertaining but it felt cookie cutter in its approach with little in the way of either heart or surprise. Where I found Up too implausible to make me suspend my disbelief, this felt far more like pure kiddie fare than the usual family friendly feature that offers something for everyone.
I suppose the espionage angle was for the adults in the crowd and yes, Michael Caine was a perfect choice for the automotive version of James Bond. Still, it felt unnecessarily tacked on, although his contrast with Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) was a nice idea. Mater is a supporting character uncomfortably thrust into the spotlight and much like a television sitcom spinoff written around a supporting character (Joey anyone?), Mater just isn’t a strong enough personality to handle the lead.
What might have worked better is if this was a true Radiator Springs ensemble story even without Paul Newman’s well-loved vehicle. We get, instead, a somewhat heavy handed theme of oil dependency and corporate greed in the form of Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard) and Professor Zündapp (Thomas Kretschmann). Out to stop their scheme is Finn McMissile (Caine) and his plucky trainee Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer). The fish out of water notion of Mater and company traveling Japan, Italy and England could have been handled with better humor and plotting.
There are so many roads to travel that this feels like a mistake from beginning to ending, even if we chuckle and guffaw along the way. I think we’ve just come to expect perfection from Pixar so when they prove to be merely mortal, capable of mistakes, the news is hard to accept.
Thankfully, for those who buy the combo set, the high definition transfer is glorious, as we’ve come to expect from parent company Disney. The colors are bright, the racing engines purr with terrific fidelity.
Purchasers should be aware that Disney has continued their new habit of reserving the choicest extras for the combo pack, which has swelled to five discs now that a 3-D disc has been added along with the Blu-ray, standard DVD, digital copy, and Bonus Features. The full array of features includes entertaining commentary from directors John Lasseter and Brad Lewis that fills just about every moment of the film.
There are also two far more fun shorts: Hawaiian Vacation (6 minutes) with Buzz and Woody trying to cheer up Barbie and Ken; and Air Mater (6 minutes), yet another tall tale from the overexposed Mater.