Cars 2

The year was 2011 and PIXAR Studios was on the verge of releasing it’s twelfth feature film. So far, it had been a series of box office hits and it seemed like nothing would ever slow them down however that all changed with Cars 2- a sequel to one of their biggest films and the second sequel the studio had ever made. While the first film was about slowing down and taking pleasure in the small things to get more out of life, this one was about how friends may argue but they are still friends. Of course, changing the moral of your story from one film to the next is to be expected if you want the stories to feel fresh and the moral here is a good one. There just happen to be spy involved.

This time around we follow the tow truck mater as he travels to the World Grand Prix with his best friend Lightning McQueen. After an argument breaks out between them, Mater head back to Radiator Springs, only to become embroiled in a spy mission which puts every race car at a deadly risk. This is a far cry from the simple premise of Cars but I’ll give it credit for being innovative. It’s like if a James Bond film was to focus on the sidekick rather than the man himself, which provides a fresh spin on the classic narrative and is an idea that I love. When it comes to Cars 2 though, I’m not such a fan of that role going to Mater. He’s a fleshed out character, just like the rest of the cast, but as I discussed in my review of the previous instalment [HERE] he isn’t my kind of character. Mater is a stereotypical depiction of a hillbilly, which is an issue in it’s own right, but I really believe that PIXAR is better than that. One of the reasons that I prefer PIXAR films to Disney is that they never speak down to children, opting instead to treat them as equals. Onward director Dan Scallon stated in a recent interview with UniLad [HERE] that “kids are smart, they go through some tough stuff so {talking down to them} doesn’t come up that often.” I feel like this isn’t the case with Mater, whose lack of intelligence is a recurring gag throughout the movie. It was tolerable in passing with Cars but making it the focal point here is quite damaging to the film. In a lot of ways it feels like they’re punching down and that is just not an acceptable form of comedy.

As for the spy plot, I have to admit, I’m kind of a fan. It’s a brand new direction for the studio and it’s certainly a bold one. Taking your story in a new direction is important in keeping your franchise feeling fresh and without that change, you have to lean on character development for growth. Sometimes change can lead to an iconic film like The Empire Strikes Back and sometimes it leads to the creation of something that many people would rather forget like Batman and Robin. Personally, I think that errs on the positive side despite some, like Time Out Magazine, claiming that it should be “towed off to the scrapyard.” There are countless spy films and with them comes countless gadgets but Cars 2 is required to take it one step further. What gadgets could a car use and where would they store them? What does a bathroom brawl look like and what about jetpacks? What would Sir Michael Cain sound like as some kind of Aston Martin with a moustache? Cars 2 manages to provide solid answers to all these questions and I was somewhat impressed by those answers. If you aren’t impressed by these answers, I hope that you can at least find them entertaining. Whether or not a spy plot belongs in a Cars movie is questionable but as a spy plot it wouldn’t go amiss in an instalment of the James Bond franchise and is ridiculously fun in parts. Perhaps the most questionable plot element is that the villains of the piece are “lemons” which are cars that don’t function as well as other high-brand models. Provided you don’t think of the real world ramifications of a rhetoric like this, you’ll be alright. If you are interested though, Jack Saint has a wonderful video on the very subject [HERE] but, be warned, there is profanity. It will also become impossible to view Cars 2 in the same way again, which is something I had to learn the hard way.

We now come to what is perhaps the most consistently wonderful part of any PIXAR movie- the score. In my review for the original film, I was mildly critical of the Pop!Country soundtrack which has mildly dated the film but that is not the case here. Cars 2 may have songs within the first half hour that I find forgettable but the score leans heavily on the spy aesthetic. I often listen to the score of a film as I’m writing about it and tracks like Mater’s Getaway are just as motivational as tracks from The Pirates of the Caribbean. It should come as no surprise then that the score was orchestrated by the always wonderful Michael Giacchino in his fourth collaboration with the studio. The art style of the film has also improved since its predecessor with some flat-out amazing wide shots of Japan, Italy and London. This is due, in part, to the evolution of CG technology in those 5 years but how that technology is used is just as important. If you aren’t super keen on this film, that is perfectly understandable but there is definitely enough in Cars 2 for every generation to enjoy.

Until Next Time…

Signed: Your friendly neighbour hood queer

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