Friday 22 July 2011

Today's Review: Cars 2

As I stated just this week, I am a massive Pixar fanboy. I own every movie, I've seen them all at the cinema, and I farkin' love them. Since they pioneered the CGI movie they have consistently kept their place at the top of the genre. They manage to create movies with perhaps the flimsiest of premises (Toys are actually alive, a rat likes to cook food, etc.) and populate them with instantly likeable and deep characters, references just for the adults and heart warming, even tear jerking moments. I saw Toy Story with my parents, the next few with my high school friends, and the next few with my girlfriend/fiancée, and I've been a massive fan every step of the way. Today was the first time I took my daughter to the cinema, so that's special too.

So imagine my horror a month or so back when Cars 2 opened in America to really bad reviews. Everyone was calling it the first "terrible" Pixar movie, and I didn't want to believe them. I read a few of the reviews, noted the main criticisms, but all the while I had faith that these people were just willing Pixar to fail eventually, and were gloating now that Pixar have made something that is not quite on par with everything else they've made.

In some respect, I believe I was right. Cars 2 is not amazing, but it's not terrible either. I tried to go into this movie with an impartial frame of mind, and I was quite prepared for it being awful. Cars was probably my least favourite Pixar movie, but after Amelia developed an obsession with it it grew on me. Still, I wasn't sure how much material they could use for a sequel.

Cars 2 sees us rejoin Mater and Lightning McQueen as they embark on a World Grand Prix, which is really just three races in Tokyo, Italy, and London. On the way, however, Mater manages to get mistaken for a spy and pulled into an international secret operation. That's about it really, as far as the plot goes. Not the strongest that Pixar have delivered, but they do make some good use of it.

Lightning McQueen's part is greatly reduced to pretty much minor character, he just spends some time racing around while Mater gets to have all the fun. But Mater is probably the best character of the franchise. While many probably hate him, his idiotic charms have made him stand out from everybody else, even earning him a starring role in the Cars Toons series. With Cars 2 we get introduced to Finn McMissile, a James Bond style British agent played by Michael Caine, and he's pretty cool, if a little one dimensional.

As usual, Pixar have a lot of fun with their chosen genre, filling the movie to the gills with car chases, explosions, and perhaps a slightly worrying amount of guns and "deaths" for a kid's movie. The action scenes are wonderfully planned out, and look awesome, pretty much just like a Bond movie, where every chase is a car chase.

In fact, the whole movie looks amazing. From the shiny race cars to the water and lighting effect, Pixar have worked their usual magic. Of particular note is the various real buildings they have recreated from the cities featured. These landmarks look amazing, even down to the smallest detail of the miniature car statues adorning the buildings in Italy. With the wealth of new places introduced, however, there is of course a multitude of car related puns, which can get old rather quickly. It's like they've pulled in some pun writers from The Sun as consultants.

So yes, there's lots of action, be it explosions and car chases or racing. But that's really as deep as this movie goes. Don't expect any moment that'll make you burst into tears, which Up managed to do in its first 15 minutes and Toy Story pulled off with its mere nostalgia value. But after two years of making us cry like babies, maybe it's time that Pixar took their foot off the throttle a bit and just had some fun. While Pixar have been known for the morals and meaningful moments they add to their movies, they can't get it on the money every time. They did try to include a message about friendship in Cars 2 though, but it fell pretty flat against the secret agent backdrop.

Cars 2 is the worst movie Pixar has made. But it is by no means terrible. There is still a certain amount of love poured into this project, and it's a very decent homage to spy movies. It isn't Oscar worthy, but neither is any other CGI crap that is spewed out nowadays, and it's still a lot better than any of that. I can certainly acknowledge the complaints that many have had about Cars 2, but I can't understand why they are so actively promoting their hatred. So Pixar haven't made a masterpiece. I'm sure the magic still isn't dead, and I hope no one really gives up on them after one un-amazing movie out of 12.

My rating: 3/5

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