Cars 2

Pixar grabs the eyes and dulls the mind in its spy-movie sequel

Cars 2

© Disney / Pixar

Director: John Lasseter and Brad Lewis
Starring: Larry the Cable Guy, Owen Wilson, Michael Caine, Eddie Izzard
Time Out rating:

Pixar gives its anthropomorphized vroom-vroom animation series a fresh paint job in this globe-hopping adventure, which has plenty of glittery visual allure (dig that trippy Tokyo skyline – kid-friendly, of course). But the razzle-dazzle can't distract from the monotonously overstuffed spy-film plot. Yes, a spy film: the sequel's focus shifts from the first installment's burnished, smooth-talking race-car protagonist, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), to rusty, drawling tow-truck sidekick Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), who's unwittingly drafted into an undercover operation run by UK secret-agent sedan Finn McMissile (Michael Caine).

It seems someone is planning to put a wrench in the works of the World Grand Prix, a three-part race (in Japan, Italy and London) sponsored by green-energy-promoting billionaire SUV Sir Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard). All the cars, McQueen among them, are supposed to use Axlerod's new clean-fuel compound, Allinol – though it has, shall we say, an explosively fatal flaw. Spy jinks ensue, with Mater's buck-toothed tomfoolery proving to be the perfect cover (McMissile thinks the imbecile American act is entirely intentional) as the agents close in on the villainous head honko.

Sorry, was that vehicular pun too much for you? Prepare for plenty more (Big Ben = Big Bentley), along with some cornball preachiness in the Disney-at-its-worst mold. Mater is a figure of deride-the–Red Stater fun (he thinks that wasabi is ice cream…ha!) until the film's frenetic narrative demands that he isn't. All the better to put across the formulaic moral of the story: we've all gotta be ourselves, goshdiggetydarnit! It's painful when Cars 2 skews Aesopesque. For all the stunning fluidity of the animation – the race scenes, in particular, benefit from the eye-popping clarity of the 3D imagery – you never believe any of the movie's homilies are more than shallow truisms tacked onto an overlong toy commercial.

Cars 2 opens nationwide on July 30. Note that the majority of screenings are dubbed into Japanese

By Keith Uhlich
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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