Sunday, June 26, 2011

REVIEW: Cars 2

Save Cars 2!

That's what I felt shouting after seeing Pixar's latest movie, to which other critics have been uncommonly unkind. I left the theater jazzed.  I was baffled as to how they missed the boat by a mile or two.

I didn't see this sappy, cluttered, confusing, inconsequential mess, this ... this CARTOON that Pixar DARED to make. And then, looking over the reviews, I found that a lot of writers weren't so much reviewing the movie as they were the IDEA of the movie. "They made a sequel to Cars? How crass! How commercial! How shallow!"

I prefer to review what's up there on the screen. And what I saw was a great deal of fun. No, it does not rank alongside Pixar's great films. Yes,  I'd probably rank it last, alongside the original Cars.

But as Michael Wilmington of Movie City News (formerly of the Chicago Tribune) sagely pointed out, naming Pixar's worst movie is like trying to pick the Beatles' worst album. Sure, you could find an album that wasn't as great as the others, but the Beatles didn't have it in them to make a bad album. And I doubt that Pixar has it in them to make a bad movie.

Cars 2 tells a pair of stories that dovetail with each other. About a third of Cars 2 is an international grand prix racing movie with Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) at the center. The other two-thirds is an homage to  James Bond pictures, with Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) being mistaken for a master spy who's trying to find out why racers in the grand prix are being sabotaged.

The James Bond angle, in particular, was right up my alley. I love that series. So I got a giant kick out of seeing Finn McMissile transforming from an Aston Martin to a submersible. Very Goldfinger/Spy Who Loved Me. I loved the various chases and shootouts, which were thrilling to watch.

Some people had problems with the fact that Mater was front and center in this movie, but not me. Mater is not merely a dumb country bumpkin. In fact, the story addresses that very perception. Mater is a bumbler to be sure, but he never means to cause trouble. His heart is always in the right place, and since he IS a tow truck, he knows all about the various models of cars, and that comes in very handy here. I especially loved how the bad guys of this movie were autos with horrible reputations, like Gremlins, Pacers and Yugos.

Those who know me know that when I love something, I really love it. And since this movie combines Pixar and Bond, I probably was bound to enjoy it more than most. While I sometimes wear rose-colored glasses, I am not willfully blind.

I will admit that sometimes Cars 2 does get a little too frenzied for its own good. I wish it had taken the advice of the original film and slowed down a little. I will also concede that Cars 2 is not particularly ambitious. It skews young, and there's less here for adults than usual with Pixar. If you're not into cars or Bond, you may be more at sea than I was. Emotionally, it's a little thin. Most Pixar movies make me tear up. Cars 2 only made my lower lip stick out a bit.

Some may say that since Pixar sets the bar so high for itself, Cars 2 inevitably comes up short. I prefer to take a glass half-full approach. After nearly 20 years of making the best animated features, Pixar is allowed - perhaps even entitled - to make a movie that's merely a heck of a lot of fun.


PS - Wow, I made it through the review without making ONE lame automobile pun!

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