- Running time:
- 107 minutes
- Owen Wilson -
- Voice of Lightning McQueen
- Larry the Cable Guy -
- Voice of Mater
- Michael Caine -
- Voice of Finn McMissile
- Emily Mortimer -
- Voice of Holley Shiftwell
- John Turturro -
- Voice of Francesco Bernoulli
Superstar racecar Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) has settled in to a peaceful small town life in Radiator Springs, until his tow truck best friend Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) enters him in the World Grand Prix and the two speed off for international adventure. Lightning faces a formidable new rival in Italian racecar Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro), but it’s Mater who’s really in for a surprise when he lands in the middle of a top secret mission involving super spies Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer).
The buzz: Released in 2006, “Cars” was a minor speed bump in Pixar’s rise to animation domination. It remains the least critically acclaimed and one of the lowest grossing Pixar releases to date. Those modest disappointments were offset by a merchandising bonanza—according to the Wall Street Journal, “Cars” has raked in an average of $2 billion in merchandise sales per year since 2006—and now “Cars” becomes the first Pixar production since “Toy Story” to spawn a sequel. It’s also a passion project for returning director John Lasseter, who happens to be Pixar’s head honcho and may well feel the need to redeem the original’s reputation with a superior sequel.
The verdict: What might easily be forgiven as a forgettable misfire from another studio instead looks like an outright dud by Pixar standards. While “Cars 2” includes many of the animation titan’s usual strengths—gorgeous state of the art visuals, generous doses of humor and heart, and carefully considered all-ages appeal—it also lacks the next-level narrative ambitions and deep emotional resonance audiences have come to expect. It’s the first Pixar film that could understandably be dismissed as filler. Much of the disappointment comes from revisiting characters barely interesting enough for one film in a sequel that does little to develop them further. A forced emphasis on misunderstood country bumpkin Mater never achieves the intended emotional weight—he’s a rube with a heart of gold, a simpleton out of place next to Pixar’s more complex and multilayered heroes. The story also suffers from the bold but foolish notion to take characters built for a portrait of small town Americana and dropping them into a swanky international spy thriller. It’s a gambit that results in an uncharacteristically convoluted storyline and an unusually frantic vibe that undermines the first film’s message of slowing down to enjoy life. “Cars 2” gets significantly more mileage from its eye-popping visual wizardry and playful attention to detail—as the fast-moving action zips from Italy to Japan to France to England, it feels as if every brightly colored frame contains an in-joke or cultural reference. That makes it the first Pixar film that’s easy enough to watch, but never quite satisfying to experience.
Did you know? A sequel isn’t the only plan to extend the “Cars” franchise (and merchandising opportunities). Spinoffs are also in the works, including “Planes” due for direct-to-DVD release in 2013.
“Cars 2” is also playing in 2D. Find local showtimes here.
“Cars 2” is also playing in select IMAX theaters. Find local showtimes here.
Follow Metromix's Geoff Berkshire on Twitter: @geoffberkshire
Movie theaters and showtimes for Cars 2 3D in New York.
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