Rusty tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) convinces his best friend and superstar race car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) to join the first World Grand Prix to show an arrogant competitor that he can win. Meanwhile mater is mistaken for an international spy and is pulled into the hunt for a TV camera with sinister powers.
I have to admit that Cars is one of my least favourite Pixar films. This is not because it is a bad film, but because it is just not as good as the rest of the Pixar canon. There was a big discussion about the reasons for this over coffee the other day, and we came to the conclusion that Lightning is not one of the most relatable characters in the Pixar family. I also wondered if it was the fact that cars – by definition – do not have the same range of gestures as characters that we consider to be humanoid, as well as this, there are too many questions about the world – why are there buses if there are no people? Who built Big Bentley? And why aren’t there any people or animals? Whatever the reason, Cars may have been one of the highest grossing Pixar films through merchandise, but it is the one that has the least emotional impact.
Cars 2 makes the clever move of pushing Mater to the front as the character that most of the story hinges on. Some may say that a little of Larry the Cable Guy goes a long way, but Mater is infinitely more relatable than his best friend Lightning. Mater learns, through the film, that he is what some may consider a ‘lemon’ (a bad car) and that some may consider his small town opinions to be idiocy. He is abandoned by his best friend for not fitting in and is continually out of his depth. The child in all of us is more than familiar with this situation and it is one that definitely allows the audience to identify with Mater.
The film looks fantastic – as we have come to expect from Pixar films – and it is one of the very few 3D films that actually makes use of the technology and makes it look good. The story is a lovely pastiche of every good spy film you have ever seen; in particular the Bond movies. All the gadgets are there, as are the aloof commanding officer and the girlie love interest. There is no big emotional climax to the film, other than a pretty impressive chase, and to be honest, the racing scenes are vaguely boring.
Overall, the story of Cars 2 is an interesting one, but one that could have been told through any of the Pixar characters – Buzz and Woody being spies would have been a sight to see – or in fact, it could have been told as a new concept with an entirely new set of characters. The cars still do not have emotional impact; they are stilted and struck in their movements and gestures and Lightning McQueen is not one of Pixar’s strongest characters. There is obviously love within the studio for this franchise, but for the first time, it has not translated onto the screen.
Go and see Cars 2 if there is a little boy in your family, but do not expect the depth and joy that has been brought to us by… Well, every other Pixar film to date.