It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!
Title: Cars 2
MPAA Rating: G
Genre: action, spy, adventure, racing
Starring: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Eddie Izzard, John Turturro, Thomas Kretschmann, Bonnie Hunt
Director: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis
Writer: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis, Daniel Fogelman, Ben Queen
Distributor: Disney, Pixar
Budget: $200 Million
Box Office: $560 Million
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 39%
A pro race series to establish the safety of the organic fuel Allinol is being plagued with race cars mysteriously breaking down. In a case of mistaken identity, Mater is mistaken for an American secret agent. While Lightning McQueen tries to focus on racing and beating Francesco Bernoulli, an F-1 champion, Mater teams up with Finn McMissile and Holley Shiftwell to get to the bottom of the burnouts. Is Allinol really safe? And what do the lemons of the Cars world have to do with it.
I’ll admit freely and willingly that I enjoyed the original Cars movie. Cars is up there with Lilo & Stitch and A League of Their Own for me in favorite movies. I have a thing about found families and friendships. The original Cars movie was not an action movie. It was a racing movie, a drama, but in no way an action movie. It deeply plugged into NASCAR and American nostalgia. Perhaps the most successful part of Cars was the merchandising. If you had a little boy or girl that loved Cars, then they needed every single character from the movie in every form they could get. Well, the only way to continue to expand the merchandise collecting is to add more to universe. Thus, we got Planes and Planes: Fire & Rescue and Cars 2. (And the upcoming Cars 3.)
And Cars 2 instead of going for a straight out racing movie where it focuses on Lightning McQueen trying to break into the international circuit. (Face it NASCAR is very much an American thing.) Pixar decided to add a huge lump of James Bond into the mix. Now. I love racing. I’ve watched Driven. I like Fast & the Furious (especially the few racing bits.) I like Cars. I’ve gone to lower circuit races and watched cars go left. And I like James Bond. This really should have been a win-win movie for me.
I ended up watching it on 1.5x speed and muting parts of it. It was just that bad. I’d heard Cars 2 had suffered from the dreaded sequel slump. And I was like, okay, I’ll have to give it a chance. But man, it really hit that dreaded sequel slump!
It feels to me like there were just one too many things going on. There were essentially three plots here. There was the James Bond plot. With the conflict being that somebody was blowing up the race cars. Then there was the racing plot with Lightning and Francesco being in competition with each other. The other race cars were little more than ‘faces.’ This plot never really went anywhere. And then there was the third plot of, Mater is the worst stereotype of an American tourist ever and he and Lightning have a fight over his behavior. So, we ended up with this hodge podge movie that was something about saving the world or was it about friendship or competition.
And to me, the most cringe worthy parts of the whole thing was the third plot, Mater being the worst stereotype of an American tourist that prompts a fight with Lightning. Look, we have lots of movies out there that have to do with friendship. We’ve got entire shows about it with ponies and magical girls and god knows. This plot was just done poorly. Because of the whole three plots juggling, there wasn’t any time to focus on it. (Just like there wasn’t time to focus on plot 2.) Just, I would have loved, loved to see a plot where Lightning supported Mater for being Mater the entire movie. It would have cut the cringe factor out. And there are more ways of solving friendship problems than fighting and saying “I don’t need you anymore. Go away.”
Cutting out plot 3 would have left more time to develop plot 2. Plot 1 was plenty developed. Plot 2 was just sort of “we have this rivalry and it’s happening but we’re not going to do anything with it because why develop Francesco as a character or any of these new cars outside of McMissile and Shiftwell.”
Of all the plots, I liked Plot one. So I’m leaving a quarter of this cookie because of plot 1. The whole James Bond car theme was cool. It was entertaining. The shout outs to everything were great. Maybe if they’d focused on that and only on that it would have been a better movie. I don’t know. Just, a quarter of the cookie for the plot and all the funny dialogue it inspired.
There were explosions in this movie. In fact, the explosions related in the movie sent the tone from cringe to horrifying. This was a kid’s movie! I don’t know how doing things off screen made it any better. Still, it made me go “oh shit” because I honestly did not expect them to go there. One cookie.
There were fights with cars. I’m not even sure how this works. But fine, entertaining. One cookie.
I’m not really sure of the point of Holley Shiftwell. Okay, in Cars, Lightning McQueen learned an important lesson about life and friendship and well, caught the attention of a girl. Cars 2, Mater meets a car and assumes she’s his girlfriend and somehow at the end she is? Really? Really? That’s the message we want to send to little boys that you can say that a girl is your girlfriend and then she’ll become it. I want to like Holley’s character. I really do. She just felt like an addition so that Mater could get a girl like Lightning has a girl. If she’d been the awesome female spy and she was an awesome female spy in some respects. And in the end, her and Mater actually you know, made time for a real date. Then I’d be a little less annoyed about her character treatment. She had one really good moment. Quarter of a cookie.
The deeper glimpse we got into the Cars universe in this film was really fun. All of the spy gadgets. Showing the planes more and incorporating boats. The world began to feel more complete. Though I still have a lot of questions. If the engine isn’t the ‘brain’ of the car, what IS the brain of a car or boat or plane? And do they get to decide what they’re going to be or what? I had all these questions at the end of Cars. Cars 2 didn’t answer them. But did the technology and the physics and everything make sense in universe. To me it did. I didn’t really get pulled out of the movie by the technology. Just, the plots. So, a cookie.
Cars 2 earns 3.5 cookies and the three cookies it does earn are on the most basic of requirements, explosions, entertaining fights and a solid universe. There were too many plots either undeveloped or downright embarrassingly overused. And Holley Shiftwell was added a female for the sake of a female to be Mater’s girlfriend. Not a good rating at all.