Pixar breaks its 15 year streak with its first officially shit movie, Cars 2. That’s right, it’s the film no one wanted – a sequel to their previous worst film – and even the direct involvement of John Lasseter wasn’t enough to make this film anything more than a cash grab.
It’s not difficult to surmise that the 2006 acquisition of Pixar by Disney is responsible for the recent fascination with sequels. Toy Story 3, thankfully, was one of those rare beasts – a second sequel that’s actually top notch – and we’ll have to wait and see if 2013’s Monster’s University will be a return to form. I, for one, would much rather see Pixar making original films, which is why I’m most excited about next year’s Brave (which will also feature Pixar’s first female lead).
Anyways, getting back to Cars 2. Whilst Cars dealt with the concept of a town forgotten in the wake of highway constructions (via Doc Hollywood), Cars 2 turns its attention to the next most obvious automobile-related plot device: big oil companies and their opposition to alternative fuels. It may seem like a brazen move, but unfortunately there isn’t much bite to this film. Instead of a brilliant satire on the oil industry and the Western world’s reliance on a finite resource, it instead opts for the same approach taken by 1997’s The Man Who Knew Too Little (and a heap of other ‘accidental spy’ films) by placing a hapless civilian into a James Bond-type scenario.
The town of Radiator Springs has been enjoying a renaissance of late, thanks to Lightning McQueen’s (Owen Wilson) celebrity presence. His winning streak attracts the antagonism of one Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro), a formula one car who claims to be the fastest in the world. The two of them agree to go head to head in the first World Grand Prix. McQueen’s best friend, Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) comes along as support, but is soon entangled in the world of international espionage alongside the likes of Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer).
A lot of the critical blame has been placed on Mater’s increased role in Cars 2. He certainly is the central character, but I disagree that he’s the ‘Jar Jar Binks of Pixar’, as has been noted elsewhere. In actual fact, I quite like Mater, and I’ll tell you why. One of my initial problems with Cars was that the characters simply weren’t anthropomorphic enough. I didn’t feel empathy for these automobiles, possibly because their faces weren’t very human. Their expressions lacked the elasticity found in great animation because they couldn’t alter to any great extent, having to remain in the general shape of the front of a car body. If you think of both the original illustrations and the TV series of ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’, those vehicles had human faces stuck on a flat surface at the front of train, meaning they could mimic the whole range of human expression. This isn’t the case in the Cars world. The most emotive face, however, is Mater’s. He’s the least car-like of the bunch and gets the most exaggerated expressions. Thus, I think he’s the best of the lot.
However, this isn’t enough to save Cars 2. The plot’s full of action and the occasional laugh, but it’s really nothing special. It certainly doesn’t even begin to approach the works of art that were Wall-E or Up, the whiz-bang action of The Incredibles or the heartstring-tugging Toy Story franchise. It’s simply a kids movie, and one that adults will find a chore. In fact, half way through I realised I was just staring at the colours on the screen in a daze and had completely forgotten what was going on.
The film is predictable and the many car races are too unrealistic to become exciting. The cars’ actions have no resemblance to real world physics, which means we can never be swept up in the action. At least the original Cars had a breathtaking opening race.
Cars 2 is an overly colourful yet dreary blotch on Pixar’s resume, and the sooner they reinstate their policy of not putting their efforts into sequels, the better. Bring on Brave, I say.Rating: