CARS 2 (Dirs. John Lasseter & Brad Lewis, 2011)
CARS and it's new sequel opening today, CARS 2, are the most commercial and formulaic films of all the Pixar productions. But that doesn't mean that they suck - no, they are both fairly entertaining animated kids flicks. It's just that this new entry in the franchise has a major problem that can be stated simply: too much Larry the Cable Guy.
Way too much.
As Tow Mater, the rusty redneck tow truck friend to Owen Wilson's Lightning McQueen, Larry the Cable Guy (man, I hate typing that - he'll be LCG from here on) has been promoted to the lead character here. LCG gets mistakenly caught up in a secret spy mission involving Michael Caine as a British agent Aston Martin model (obviously 007-ish), and his partner in espionage Emily Mortimer, also a sleek European car outfitted with snazzy gadgets.
Meanwhile, Wilson is competing with John Turturro as an arrogant Italian race car in the first World Grand Prix to determine the world's fastest car. This takes us to the gorgeously rendered locations of Tokyo, Paris, and London which often distracts from the flimsy predictable plot. Eddie Izzard voices a army green SUV billionaire who's promoting a green gasoline substitute fueling the vehicles in the Grand Prix.
So Caine and Mortimer with the scrappy help of LCG work to take down the bad guys trying to discredit the threat to traditional gasoline. If you can't guess the identity of the mysterious villain way before it's revealed then you're probably not paying attention. Or Pixar has succeeded in dazzling you enough that you don't care.
LCG was fine in small doses in the first CARS, but its a major malfunction to make Mater the central dominant character. His one note bucktoothed presence grated on me in every scene, and the tired premise of his dumb luck reeks of comic desperation, which is very surprising in a Pixar film.
No Pixar palette should ever attempt to balance the likes of Michael Caine and Larry the Cable Guy (felt I should type it out this time).
As I said, CARS 2 isn't awful, it's just awfully average for a Pixar film. There are some fun sequences, but after the company's heights of the last several years (RATATOUILLE, WALL-E, UP, TOY STORY 3) this sequel feels like treading water. And with its over abundance of country bumpkin crap via one of the unfunniest and irritating comedians of all time, it barely keeps afloat.
Oh yeah, there is a amusing TOY STORY short called "Hawaiian Vacation" before the movie so that's a definite plus.