Here’s a pic of our first trip to the flix as a family. Shame, then, that it was to see the first Pixar movie to take its eye off the ‘utterly charming’ ball.
Cars 2 is an exercise in cool. At times the animation is gasp enducing, and in the opening Oil Rig sequence alone there were several inspired visual moments that literally made me go “woah, that’s cool.”
But that’s all it is. If the story arc of the original Cars was a graceful parabola over a majestic canyon, then the arc of Cars 2 spikes & rolls like a defibrillating gutbucket. The original was about friendship, loyalty, and the sorrowful shame of neglecting a small town’s heart. It was about the price of progress and the values that should transcend it. Cars 2 is about spies.
Yes there’s a handy ”Mater learns to accept himself” homily to sweeten the hyperactive pill, but compared to the static glory of The Big Country that grounded Cars, the sequel’s gaddabout camera zooming around Europe’s capitals offers no respite – not one moment for contemplation, not a second’s consideration for motivation. Set-piece after set-piece hypnotised my three-year-old boy, Pablo, but my six-year-old was a bit fidgety. Even worse, there were more laughs in the opening 6 minute Toy Story short than in the entire 106 minute feature that followed.
It really is a shame. Cars is one of my favourite Pixars, but, in focussing on Mater at Lightning’s expense, Cars 2 makes the mistake of exchanging the film’s heart for an overextended fish-out-of-water gurnfest by a previously marginalised character who just should’ve stayed that way, the original’s perfect balance sacrificed at the altar of cheap gags by a comic relief inexplicably shoved front & centre.
Why? I have no idea, but I can’t imagine it was all John Lasseter’s fault. I think it’s telling that the credits reel opens with the Toy Story genius as sole director, but then throws in a co-directing credit for first timer (and co-writer) Brad Lewis, as if John was willing to take the heat for Brad’s misfires. I’m sure he’ll learn, but on the evidence of this Brad should go knock on Dreamworks’ door and bother the Angle Poise no more.
To conclude, Cars 2 is a tragically wasted opportunity, but hey, at least we’ll always have Willy’s Butte.