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CARS 2 (2011)

>> Thursday, June 30, 2011

Did I hate Cars 2? Nope. Did I like it? About as much (if not slightly more) than the first one. My friend Luke brings up an interesting point about this film. While it's obvious this film exists to cash in on merchandising opportunities, the reason the Cars movies work is because we all believe our cars to be personified. There's almost nobody out there that doesn't refer to their car or a vehicle (especially the ones we love) as 'he' or 'she'. So what's better than seeing a film like Cars 2 and thinking to yourself "Hey, I bet my minivan does think that way!"

Does that mean Cars 2 is without its flaws? No, not at all. But it is watchable if you can get past the idea that for some reason cars with no hands can somehow make buildings, write newspaper articles and dare I say - make babies? Best leave that story for a time when Disney runs out of enough ideas to make a film literally titled The Birds and the Bees. These flaws were present in the first one as well. If you accepted it then, you'll accept it with the sequel.

In Cars 2, two main characters stray from home - Lightning McQueen (Midnight in Paris's Owen Wilson) and Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). They leave Radiator Springs behind for the sites of the world in pursuit of first place at the World Grand Prix. Sure enough, in front of the big shots Mater embarrasses McQueen leaving McQueen to push Mater out of the way and move on to 'more important things'. That's when Mater runs into spies Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer). The spies mistake Mater for one of the most gifted spies they've ever encountered. If Cars was McQueen's movie then Cars 2 is certainly Mater's.

Now, the Disney/Pixar execs will swear a couple of things when it comes to Cars 2 (Pixar's most unnecessary film to date). One is that this film was made solely for merchandising purposes (they'll say it was made to appease the fans' demands), and the other is that this is more of spy movie than a spoof of a spy movie. The merchandising is whatever - Cars 2 cost Disney $200 million to make. While it'll easily make that back in ticket sales, a movie made mainly for kids essentially sells out the second it's pitched anyways. If the studios thought kids would want to sport Black Swan gear, we would see the same - art or not. So for those of you hating on this film for that aspect of it, get over your high sense of self and tell me you didn't want an Optimus Prime action figure in the worst way when you were eight. As for the spy part of it, that's something I wanted to discuss.

It's the 21st century, a spy film made today will have some air of James Bond to it no matter what. It's what made Austin Powers successful, and it will make Cars 2 successful. The thing they have in common? They are both spoofs of spy movies in some ways. While Austin Powers is more candid about it, Cars 2 still borrows a lot from the spy genre and therefore becomes a spoof. But let me be clear, this isn't a bad thing. Here it's used as a tool to send Mater on a wacky adventure and provide some comic relief.

For the entertainment value alone, I am giving Cars 2 an open door. The day that I can't recommend a Pixar film will be a sad day indeed. This one came close though. But there are enough jokes, color and pretty things to look at that while the adult in us may struggle with it a bit, the kid in us (or car enthusiast in us) will love it.

*Stills courtesy of Disney/Pixar


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