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Monday, August 27, 2012

Pixargust: Cars 2 (2011)

*sigh*... Okay guys, we've come to one of the big ones. By big ones, I mean it has a big reputation. And by reputation I mean that this has been voted unanimously as Pixar's weakest link: the worst one the studio has made thus far. So it's no surprise that out of all the Pixar films I said I'd do for Pixargust, Cars 2 was the one film I wanted to watch the least. I remember being uninvested by the trailers, I was uninvested by what the story was when I saw the synopsis, I had no interest at all in seeing this last year. And all the negative reviews from not just critics but even fans from the first Cars movie didn't help me change my mind. But my curiosity got the best of me and I got to catch this in a dollar theater last year. Well, I was mostly right. It wasn't that bad but it was still very disappointing to know the kings of story and the animation studio that had the greatest track record for quality films, Pixar, had made this film. So here I am talking about it now that I had to see it a second time. Is it any better and improve the franchise by making it a true Pixar film or is it as painful and hard to watch as a car wreck? Time to check under the hood to see if it's any better, this is Cars 2.

Years pass by as Lightning McQueen has won four Piston Cups and is the pride of Radiator Springs. When he returns, Mater is there to try and have fun until McQueen goes on a date with Sally. Mater impersonates a waiter just to hang out with McQueen some more until a television talk show announces that a former gas guzzler named Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard) converted to electricity and has developed a new fuel called Allinol that is supposed to be healthier for the environment (I'll get to that later...) and holds a world cup Prix in honor of the fuel. McQueen is invited after Mater calls the show to confront an Italian rival Francesco Bernoulli (John Tuturro). The first race is in Japan, then Italy, and ends in the UK. During a party, Mater makes a fool of himself and meets up with a spy car (Bruce Campbell) who puts on a tracking device on him without him knowing. He is mistaken for a spy by British Intelligence and is assigned to work with agent Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) in solving an oil rig crime caused by a group of lemons (small cars that constantly break down) that plan on destroying the cars that use Allinol to make the alternitave fuel look bad and so more cars use regular gasoline instead. It's up to Mater to save the day and he does manage to do a surprisingly competent job working undercover. Meanwhile, McQueen had an argument with Mater before about costing him the race in Japan and feels bad for his friend throughout the movie. The two are reunited in England but the lemons put a bomb on Mater. He surprisingly manages to find out it was actually Axelrod that was behind the Allinol scheme and is arrested while Mater is knighted. He is made the second pride of Radiator Springs and the Prix finishes off in Radiator Springs.

I'm going to be completely honest here: this is a really mediocre film all around. It completely feels alienated from the first Cars film. And I may have criticized it for a weak story, it does have it's heartwarming moments here and there, the side characters were fun, and it does have a nice moral to it. Cars 2 feels like Pixar took all the negative aspects of the first film and somehow made it worse instead of improving it. The side characters are non-existent, the morals are gone and if there is one it's phoned-in, and the story somehow became even more generic than the first one. This is the same plot you'd see in any spy comedy but it's not well-written, the jokes fall flat, and its aims strictly for kids. What the flying spy-car happened here? The whole environmental message really confuses me too. At least with WALL•E, it made sense. But this is Cars! Everything in the world is a car! Wouldn't the o-zone have burnt up by now?

But I'll give the film some credit, it does have a better pace than the first movie and the animation is really, really good. The animators seem to be the only people trying here and the backgrounds are great. You really do feel like you're in these places. We go to Tokyo, then Rome, the London. And I'll admit, the action scenes are cool but some of the designs on the cars could use some work. It's not Pixar's best animation, but it's far better than anything else in the movie.

The locale is really good from this pic.
Like I said most of the side characters are almost pushed aside to the point where they barely appear in this movie and are somehow less developed than before. Even McQueen, the character we should be focusing on, is pushed down to side character status. So who's the main character now? Mater. Yes, I kid you not. I liked him in the first film because while he was annoying at times, he had a kindness and charm to him and the movie knew just how much screen time he had. Now he's the main focus and that charm has sadly faded away. He's really annoying here. It's just an hour and a half of Larry the Cable Guy making unfunny jokes and somehow makes out a world-class spy. And is it me, or is the fact that he's made a spy and given weapons a bad idea from the start?

Dat there bomb probably killed the other racers on accident?
That's funny right there!
The new characters are honestly okay but I wish we got to know them more. Holly seems like she's there just to have a female spy and a love interest for Mater (again, I'm not kidding...), but I like Emily Mortimer's voice acting and I'll admit, she's pretty smart. The villain, though, falls flat by the end. How Mater even figured out it was Axelrod the whole time is really confusing and just thrown at us at the last minute. Francessco has a funny line here and there because of his overall cockiness. At least he's a little better than Chick Hicks. Finn honestly was kind of suave and charming but I wish he was made the focus if we were going a spy route. There's also a car voiced by Bruce Campbell and his scenes are awesome just because it's Bruce Campbell. But they kill him off. Yeah, they destroy his engine. We never actually see it but it's shown as a reflection on a screen. It's pretty graphic for kids. In fact, a lot of cars died and this was a G-rated film? The ratings system screwed up #1 and #2, you never ever want to kill off Bruce Campbell in a movie early on. Nothing good ever comes of that!

*sniff!* Nothing at all!
As a film on it's own, Cars 2 is average kiddie fodder. The story and jokes are rusty, but it has nice animation. As a Pixar film? It is very disappointing! I guess it's because we've all been spoiled by Pixar releasing the best of the best movies produced by the man that saved Disney animation, but I've come to expect a lot more than this. By the end of it, I felt like I only wasted time watching this. It's all flash but no drive or passion and leaves less of an impact behind than the first Cars movie. It's not godawful. Just pointless and it really is the worst Pixar movie. Even if you're a fan of the first Cars movie, chances are you won't like this movie at all. It's not as bad as I'd thought it'd be, but I don't think I'll be watching it again anytime soon.

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