Mar 20, 2015

[Movies] Cars 2 (2011)

So I wasn't all that much of a fan of the first Cars movie, and I was rather disappointed to hear that a sequel had been made. Given so many other Pixar properties that I loved move, it was annoying on some level to see that it was this movie that got a sequel. Then again, this franchise is a Lasseter  baby when you get down to it.

Cars 2 is a full sequel to the 2006 with many of the characters from the first movie returning to feature in this story. But it also features a much larger story that goes well beyond the small town of Radiator Falls and brings the adventure to a truly global scale.

What interested me most the interesting creative decision to shift more of the focus the story to Mater as opposed to Lightning McQueen, who was pretty much the protagonist of the first movie. Then again, it just goes to show that Pixar has that brand of creative liberty that shows a willingness to shake things up. Then again, it could also have been a strictly business-related decision to focus on the character that had more resonance with a wider audience.

Synopsis: Cars 2 is more than just a sequel to the 2006 CGI animated movie, but is also a comedic spy movie. The movie was directed by John Lasseter with a screenplay by Ben Queen.

The movie begins elsewhere with secret agent vehicle Fin McMissile (Michael Caine) infiltrating a secret operation on an oil platform. But before he can escape with what he has discovered, he is spotted by the criminals and is forced to flee to his apparent death. Of course he's not really dead, as is the way with secret agents and super spys - even those that just happen to be tricked out cars.

Meanwhile back in Radiator Falls, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is finally coming home after winning his fourth Piston Cup. He's looking forward to relaxing with friends until Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) manages to get Lightning committed to join Sir Miles Axelrod's (Eddie Izzard) special World Grand Prix meant as an exhibition for his new biofuel Allinol. Thus Lightning, Mater and the rest of the crew make their way to the first race location to face the challenge meted out by Italian formula racer Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro). But at the same time, Fin McMissile and his colleague Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) somehow mistake Mater for their American secret agent contact at the event.

The concept of secret agent cars is a rather fun one and it gives all sorts of excuses to add some more dynamic action to the movie. McMissiles rather versatile grappling hooks make for some very clever action sequences and daring escapes. Holley Shiftwell has her own spotlight moments given the basic fact that she can actually fly (as documented on many movie posters for the release). As much as these feel like lazy gimmicks to make the movie more fun, tying into some classic spy movie tropes really helped things push its entertainment value to best effect.

Mater is, well, very Mater. He's still a somewhat annoying character to me, but his antics made a lot more "sense" in this movie. How his bumbling was confused for very elaborate spycraft by McMissile is a little beyond me, but it did make for a good running gag. And thus the humor felt a lot more focused here on the greater goal with the still slightly narcissistic antics of Lightning McQueen relegated to a less important sub-plot in the background.

The whole plot and the big plans by the "lemons" to somehow get revenge on everyone else was a little weird, quite frankly. I mean, the relative value of a car in our world is sort of determined by the car owners, and thus bad cars or lemons are considered that way because their owners have junked them in favor of newer cars. Here lemons are just...old cars. And so lemons feeling like they're not appreciated makes them like old people feeling neglected. But that's not a perfect analogy since their solution is to continue to support good old gasoline instead of allowing new biofuels to take the spotlight. It all felt a little too convoluted to be a solid narrative, especially for a movie with more than it's fair share of young viewers.

Still, I actually liked Cars 2 more than the first movie since it gave me more entertainment value tied to spy tropes. Getting out of Radiator Falls made for a fun expansion of the world and the diversity of how cars are in different countries was rather amusing. Thus the movie gets a good 3.5 strange examples of cars eating actual food out of a possible 5.

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