Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: John Lasseter
Stars: voices of: Owen Wilson, Michael Caine, Eddie Izzard, Emily Mortimer, Larry the Cable Guy, John Turturro.
For 25 years Pixar have been making superb animated films, beginning with short films and moving into features with Toy Story, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, etc, which were all hugely successful. However, while the first Cars (2000) was popular at the box office, it remains one of the weaker films in the Pixar canon. And now we have the rather unnecessary sequel, which moves away from the quaint setting of Radiator Springs to the international stage.
Local hero made good Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is challenged to participate in the inaugural World Grand Prix. This series of races has been organised by millionaire Sir Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard) as a means to test his new hybrid oil technology. But during the race it seems that someone is sabotaging the cars to undermine the technology and ensure that in future cars still rely upon oil. While McQueen is busy competing against his arrogant Italian rival (John Turturro), his hapless tow truck sidekick Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) is recruited by British Intelligence, in the form of the sleek Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and his associate Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer). They are trying to find out the identity of the evil mastermind behind the plot to control all the world’s oil resources.
Cars 2 is essentially a spy film along the lines of the Bond franchise, except that all of the characters are represented by cars. There is plenty of action and chases, all vividly realised by the team of animators. Pixar head honcho John Lasseter returns to the director’s chair for the first time since the original Cars, and he makes a good fist of the action scenes. But this is fairly formulaic and uninspired stuff. Most of the humour here comes from the character of Mater as he blunders his way through several encounters with various spies and enemy agents.
And Lasseter has assembled a heavy weight vocal cast. Having played the cynical British spy Harry Palmer in a series of gritty 60’s espionage movies, Caine brings a sense of gravitas and history to his role.
Like most of the output from Pixar, Cars 2 is full of the usual brilliant computer generated animation, superb attention to detail, an impressive voice cast, and good use of the 3D process. However, it is hard to empathise with and emotionally connect with characters that are basically cars. Also screening with Cars 2 is a superb Pixar short, a Toy Story toon entitled Hawaiian Vacation that is very enjoyable. The animated short reunites the cast from the superb Toy Story 3 for this tale in which Ken and Barbie try to sneak off on a tropical holiday to Hawaii with new owner Bonnie. It’s a beautiful, simple but very entertaining lead in to the main feature. More of this kind of stuff please, Pixar!