It was 1995 when Pixar films—now owned by Disney—started their amazing feature film run with Toy Story, a run that eventually included 11 movies that were all a different degree of good.
With Cars 2, their 12th effort, that run comes to a screeching, tire-shredding halt. This is, without a doubt, not only the worst—and only bad—Pixar feature film to date, but one of the year’s worst movies.
This thing is just bad out of the gate. The original Cars, starring the voices of Owen Wilson as spiffy racecar Lightning McQueen and Larry the Cable Guy as Mater the irritating tow truck, was the weakest Pixar film up until the release of its sequel. Yet, even though it had a middle that dragged a bit and the slightest emotional punch of any Pixar film, I would still qualify it as a good time. Just not on par with their usual greatness.
Cars 2 is a muddled merchandising mess tooling around on bald tires. Directors John Lasseter (the first two Toy Story films) and Brad Lewis have slopped together too many ideas for one movie, none of them entertaining in the least.
The haphazard story goes something like this: Lightning McQueen gets some sort of challenge from Italian racecar Francesco (John Turturro) and goes on a world trek to race in a Grand Prix. Of course, he brings along Mater because his toy is projected to be the most popular this year, with new versions of Mater currently being readied for shelves. Get ready to pony up, parents!
Thrown into the mix is an incomprehensible spy movie arc that involves Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer as British secret agent cars. For reasons I won’t bother to explain, because I really can’t, Mater gets involved in the intrigue, and basically becomes the star of the movie. Again, get ready to pony up for the Mater toy come holiday time, folks.
Mater was the primary reason why I almost didn’t like the original Cars. The sound of Larry the Cable Guy’s voice makes me want to chuck a small computer desk or end table at the screen. I wouldn’t want to chuck a dining room table or kitchen table, for they’re too big for me to heft by myself, and I’d be injuring people two or three rows in front of me, not to mention causing potential harm to my back. I’m pretty sure I could chuck a little old end table significant yardage, perhaps only winging people in the front row. So I’m going with that.
Now, we get a movie where Larry the Cable Guy is the primary force, and that’s never a good thing for your movie. Other voices, like Eddie Izzard, Bruce Campbell and Joe Mantegna drift through, but you spend the 112-minute running time mostly listening to Larry’s infuriating vocals.
Does the movie look good? Sure it does. Pixar makes a good-looking movie, no question. Is it a movie with any redeeming value? Absolutely not. It’s a bunch of good-looking yet confusing sequences strewn together and called a movie.
This is one of those movies for kids where the kids will lose interest after around 27 minutes. I heard children protesting and saw them walking up and down the aisles, ready to get the hell out of the theater once the credits rolled. I even saw one kid set a theater seat on fire and start a rousing and surprisingly original in-theater protest of kid’s movies such as this one that insult the intelligence of his collective brethren. No, wait … I daydreamed that—’cause I was bored!
I have no doubt Pixar will get back on track with future films. Next year’s Brave, which has a preview attached to Cars 2, looks promising. The short film attached to Cars 2 is actually a Toy Story vignette starring Woody and the gang. It’s not altogether great, but it’s better than anything in the roadkill that follows.