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Movie Review: Cars 2

June 24, 2011

Cars 2 – A Walt Disney Pictures’ Release

Release Date: June 24th, 2011

Rated G for sequences of action and peril

Running time: 106 minutes

John Lasseter (dir.)

Brad Lewis (co-dir.)

Ben Queen (screenplay)

John Lasseter (story)

Brad Lewis (story)

Dan Fogelman (story)

Michael Giacchino (music)

Larry the Cable Guy as Mater (voice)

Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen (voice)

Michael Caine as Finn McMissile (voice)

Emily Mortimer as Holley Shiftwell (voice)

Eddie Izzard as Sir Miles Axlerod (voice)

John Turturro as Francesco Bernoulli (voice)

Brent Musburger as Brent Mustangburger (voice)

Joe Mantegna as Grem (voice)

Thomas Kretschmann as Professor Z (voice)

Peter Jacobson as Acer (voice)

©Walt Disney Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.

Finn McMissile (Michael Caine), Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) and Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) roam the streets of Japan in Pixar’s Cars 2.

Our reviews below:


Cars 2 Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

Those already jumping on the bandwagon of declaring director John Lasseter’s Cars 2 to be Pixar’s first misfire, should take a step back and recognize just how much this follow-up to their excellent but under appreciated 2006 film gets right.  The studio that can do no wrong has done it again with a summer blockbuster that dazzles with smart humour, a ton of heart and a sophisticated story filled with breathtaking action.

The tone is set early on with a standout sequence on the deck of an oil rig, where we are introduced to British secret agent, Finn McMissile (voice of Michael Caine).  Back in Radiator Springs, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) has just returned from winning his fourth Piston Cup, much to the delight of his best friend, the trusty tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy).  But no sooner than Lightning can say “Ka-Chow,” he gets an invite from none other than Sir Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard), to drive in the World Grand Prix.

Traveling to Tokyo, Italy and London, the World Grand Prix is the first ever race to be run on Allinol, a sustainable fuel that could hold the key to solving the world’s oil crisis.   Along the way, Mater gets mistaken for an American spy by Finn McMissile’s beautiful young assistant, Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer).  The sincere and unassuming small town tow truck is cast into piecing together the puzzle of a complex plot masterminded by the evil Professor Zündapp (Thomas Kretschmann) and his band of lemons, who plan on causing a major disruption on the racetrack.

The majority of the story is brilliantly carried by an ingenious plot involving the oil companies and the competition they receive from sustainable fuel.  The original Cars was a touching tribute to the legendary Route 66, with a message about slowing down and enjoying this journey called life.  Cars 2 consistently amps up the action, but still delivers the same good spirits and genuine heart that we could expect.

Like all of Pixar’s films, the animation here is nothing short of breathtaking.  From the glorious cityscapes right down to the small details that will inevitably be missed upon first viewing, the images are a wonder to behold regardless of whether or not you see them in 3D.  The voice acting here is also top-notch, with Owen Wilson and Larry the Cable Guy comfortably reprising their delightful leading roles.

Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer are both welcome additions to the uniformly strong supporting cast.

Mater easily provides the funniest scenes in Cars 2, but the lovable tow truck also adds the majority of the film’s more emotional elements.  A sequence at a fancy gala in Japan provides several memorably hilarious moments, particularly his palpable excitement over some free “pistachio ice cream.”  On the flipside, the moments when he painfully realizes that everyone else sees him as an idiot are heart wrenching, as we feel genuine sympathy for the character.  The overall message of sticking by your best friend even if they sometimes unintentionally embarrass you, is ultimately an honest and touching one.

Parents should be warned that the suspense and action does build as the film goes on, with the main characters placed in serious peril.  There is even a fair bit of weaponry on display here, with explosions, gunplay and physical fights putting an end to certain vehicles.  The sophisticated parts of the story really are for the adults in the audience, and at 106-minutes, Cars 2 will likely prove too long for the majority of younger kids.  But this is hardly a complaint.  The film is sure to be embraced by a wide audience, and the youngest of fans can easily catch up with it on DVD.

Some will see my decision to award Cars 2 a perfect score of 4-stars to be blindly based off of Pixar’s previous track record.  The fact that this is their twelfth great film in a row certainly adds to my excitement, but this sequel deserves such a high rating because it is quite simply one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.  It delivers humour, values heart and excites on a level of pure action.  Some will see it as the studio’s first failure, but for me it’s a welcome addition to their library of great films.

Before Cars 2, we get to revisit the beloved characters from the Toy Story franchise in the delightful short film, Hawaiian Vacation.  Bonnie and her family are off to Hawaii, but when she leaves behind her toys, Woody (Tom Hanks) and the gang team up to give Barbie and Ken (Jodi Benson and Michael Keaton) the vacation they’ve been dreaming of.  Hilarity and an expectedly sweet ending ensue.  Arrive early and don’t miss it.  Also watch for a stunning exclusive teaser for next year’s Brave, a fantasy which looks to be quite unlike anything we’ve ever seen from Pixar.


Cars 2 Review by Erin V.  

**** (out of 4)

As the film opens with a top-notch spy sequence, it gives us an idea where the film is headed.  We are then briefly transported to Radiator Springs to catch up with the characters we know from the first film before they head off for the World Grand Prix – a huge three-part race to be staged in Tokyo, Porta Corso, and London, where Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) will compete against the best racers around the world.  It is in these locations (and Paris) that the rest of the film is set.  The WGP is being sponsored and run by Sir Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard), a car who is promoting his new type of fuel by having it the required fuel for the race – a true test of its power to perform in the field.

But the plot thickens.  Things aren’t what they seem and soon Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) is mistaken by British Intelligence agents Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer), as the American agent they are to meet.  What follows is a great spy film, with real life and death stakes and not as cartoony as the ads would lead you to believe.  Don’t get me wrong though – the film has huge laughs throughout, but also a lot of heart.  As the ads do suggest though, Mater is the main character in this one – which actually really works.  He drives the plot well, and while we got to see Lightning’s character arc in the first one, we get to see his here.

The 3D works well, although it would be just as enjoyable in 2D if you want to save the surcharge.  I loved that they didn’t hold back action-wise in the film, which served the story well, although I was surprised at the G rating – this film really could have gotten a PG.  The youngest members of the audience (6 & under) seemed fidgety throughout, but older kids probably by 8+ will love this action-packed film.  But the audience that is really going to revel in the gorgeous animation, fine details, and intricately-written script, are the teens and adults who make the right choice to go check this one out in theatres.  It is really good – give it a chance.  Just as another quick mention, the score by Michael Giacchino fits right in, as well as the original songs – look for my full thoughts on the soundtrack coming in a separate review soon.

In some ways I was more sure of my opinion coming out of this film than I was after Toy Story 3 last year – don’t get me wrong, I loved that film as well – it’s just that I walked out wanting to see it again to really cement my opinion, whereas with this one I knew how I felt about it right off the bat.  I loved the first Cars, and I think this is a sequel that makes the original film feel like a great first act in a larger story.  It introduced us to the characters, and Cars 2 brilliantly builds on them without loosing sight of who they are.

I cannot reiterate the fact enough, that I think this is a great spy adventure and great film alike.  Michael Caine is pitch-perfect as McMissile, although the voice work here is all top-notch.  I loved this whole film and think it is one of the best of the year – it is exactly what you want to see in a summer blockbuster.  Smart, funny, and with a good story to think about behind it.  I plan to see this one again during its theatrical run – because I’m sure it will offer even more on second viewing with all of its details.

A quick note – try to arrive to the theatre on time, so as not to miss the hilarious new Toy Story short Hawaiian Vacation.  Also, the trailer for next year’s Pixar film, Brave, is attached to digital presentations (not sure about 35mm), so try to get there early to see it.  It will be an interesting film for sure – very different from previous Pixar outings in many ways.


Cars 2 Review by Nicole

**** (out of 4)

Once again, Pixar has created a sequel that holds up to the original film.  Not only that, but they have also made a great spy movie that should become a classic.  This time around, Lighting McQueen (Owen Wilson) is invited to race in the World Grand Prix, held by Sir Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard), as a way of advertising his new biofuel called Allinol.  Of course, Lightning incites his best friend, Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) to the race.  But Mater inadvertently becomes an embarrassment, as his naiveté and excitement in the big city make him seem like a hillbilly to the outside world.

But when a gang of lemons headed by an evil Zündapp named Professor Z (Thomas Kretschmann) threatens to destroy the Grand Prix, Mater is mistaken for an American spy.  Now he must work with fellow secret agents Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer), in order to save his friend Lightning McQueen.

Cars 2 has everything, including action and a lot of heart.  While the first one focused on Lightning McQueen, this one is truly Mater’s movie.  One really feels for him, as nobody presumes that a rusty tow truck could actually be intelligent.

The storyline is sophisticated and quite intelligent, with a surprising twist at the end.  The animation, like that in all of Pixar’s films, is spectacular.  From the attention to the smallest details, to the largest action sequences, Cars 2 is sure to get a Best Animated Film nomination at this year’s Oscars.  The exciting score by Michael Giacchino is also worthy of an Oscar nomination.  The original songs are also worthy of recognition.  Everything about Cars 2 is perfect.  This is one summer blockbuster you don’t want to miss.

Before Cars 2, is a Toy Story short film titled Hawaiian Vacation.  The toys are back in a new and fun adventure.  Bonnie is going on a Hawaiian vacation, which Barbie and Ken have been anticipating for ages.  But when she leaves them behind, the other toys create a special vacation for Barbie and Ken.  Hawaiian Vacation is a sweet and charming short film that is sure to be a hit with viewers of all ages.


Cars 2 Review by Maureen

**** (out of 4)

Cars 2 is part buddy road trip , part thrilling race car movie, part exciting spy adventure and fully a movie with the kind of heart that fans have come to expect from Pixar.  The movie opens mid-ocean, with an exciting sequence that introduces the new character of secret agent Finn McMissile (Michael Caine).  This sequence sets the tone for the sequel with a lot more action and adventure than went on with the original Cars gang in the quiet little desert town of Radiator Springs.

Cars 2 finds Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) back in Radiator Springs for a rest after several busy races.  His rest is short-lived when his good buddy, Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) gets him signed up for the World Grand Prix.  The trip will take them to Japan, Italy and England, but it turns out there’s more than just a race going on.  The WGP sponsor is Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard) who is trying to introduce the world to his new alternative fuel, Allinol. When the world’s oil supply is in question there’s bound to be bad guys who want a piece of the action.  That’s where the adventure begins.

The real star of Cars 2 is the lovable and rusty old Mater.  It seems he can’t do anything right, embarrassing Lightning from day one in Japan.  When Lightning tells Mater to ‘act different’ it makes a different kind of dent in his rusty exterior.  When Mater gets mixed up in the spy side of things, his true intelligence shines through the rust.

There are several new characters introduced in Cars 2.  The spy cars, Finn McMissile and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) are full of really interesting gadgets.  Then there are the villains, led by a Zündapp named Professor Z (Thomas Kretschmann) and his band of lemons.  On the racetrack, Lightning’s biggest rival is the flashy Italian race car, Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro).  As always, the racing sequences are fun and exciting.  

The younger viewers (5 and under) may find the film a little too long at 106-minutes, but older kids and grownups, especially if they are fans of Cars, are in for an exciting adventure.  The wonderful attention to detail in the animation, the more intriguing spy storyline and the perfect mix of old and new characters all add up to a winning sequel in Cars 2.  Does it deserve such a high rating of 4-stars?  As Mater would say, “is the Popemobile Catholic?”

One of the special treats with a Pixar movie has to be the short that always proceeds the main event.  The one opening before Cars 2 features my favourite plastic couple, Barbie and Ken.  In Hawaiian Vacation, the Toy Story gang must help the perfect couple salvage a botched vacation.  The short film is funny in a way that only the Toy Story 3 characters can be funny.  Make sure to get your popcorn and drinks well in advance, so you don’t miss any of Hawaiian Vacation.


Cars 2 Review by Tony

**** (out of 4)

Cars 2 is the sequel to Cars (2006). Though there are brief scenes in Radiator Springs with a nice nod to the late Doc Hudson and small parts for most of its characters, Cars 2 is actually an intelligent international spy thriller. While Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) runs Grand Prix races in Tokyo, [fictitious] Porto Corso (Italy), and London, Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) is caught up with British Intelligence agents Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) to help foil a plot to sabotage the race by a gang of lemon cars (which tow truck Mater knows all too well).

The gang includes such losers as Pacers and Gremlins, a Jugo (named Hugo), a typically unstable 3-wheeled Reliant-type French car (named Tomber–”to fall” in French), and the monocled mastermind Professor Zündapp*.

Like the recent Kung Fu Panda 2, Cars 2 takes characters introduced in the original film to new adventures. Unlike many critics, I didn’t dismiss Cars as little more than a marketing boom for cheap toys; indeed I rank it among the best Pixar films, with all the clever punning references that I continue to discover, and its reverence for old-fashioned values and the “Mother Road.” Cars 2 is much more of a comedy action film, and as such stands up well among the best.

This is really Mater’s story but we meet a lot of new characters along the way. In addition to those mentioned above there is the SUV race sponsor Sir Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard), the arrogant F1 Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro), Guido’s Zio (uncle) Topolino (Franco Nero) whose classic 1940s FIAT grille is a common motif in Porto Corso, and Vanessa Redgrave both as Mama Topolino and the (Rolls-Royce) queen. Once again there are enough clever references to amuse adults over multiple viewings while kids will at least enjoy the cute images, though the smallest will have trouble making it through the almost two hours in theatres.

*The Zündapp came from the German folks that made those motorcycles with sidecars seen in WW2 movies. The model shown was called Janus (after the two-faced Roman god) because except for lights it was the same front and back with a bubble car door opening in front and another one for the rear-facing passenger in the back. With only a 250 cc motorcycle engine it might reach a top speed of 80 kph in about 35 seconds with a jockey-weight driver in a tailwind. Fewer than 7000 were made in the late 1950s.


Consensus: With beautifully detailed animation and a thrilling musical score by Michael Giacchino, Pixar’s Cars 2 delivers smart humour, genuine heart and a sophisticated espionage story filled with breathtaking action sequences.  Arrive early and don’t miss the delightful Toy Story short film, Hawaiian Vacation**** (Out of 4)

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mark permalink
    December 31, 2011 1:04 pm

    Sorry, but Cars II was utter garbage. The first Pixar movie based on merchandising. Let’s hope for their sake that it doesn’t happen again.


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