Plot: A new fuel source has the world abuzz, as this breakthrough claims that it works as well as gasoline, but has none of the negative environmental concerns. Miles Axelrod is responsible for this miracle fuel, known as Allinol and he plans to showcase it during a world grand prix race. After all, if Allinol can power the high end cars in a race like that, it could easily replace gasoline across the board. Not everyone is pleased with this new fuel however, as some want to ensure that gasoline remains the preferred fuel source, even if it means sabotaging the entire race. But super agent Finn McMissile is on the case to fend off the attempts to derail the race and he has a firm grasp on the case, or so he does until he mistakes Mater for an American secret agent. With Mater pulled into an international conspiracy and the stakes higher than ever for the entire world, will the race prove Allinol is viable and lead to a fuel revolution, or will Mater’s clumsy nature tank the entire grand prix?
Entertainment Value: This was the first misstep for Pixar, a critical disaster and a movie that didn’t resonate with audiences that well. The studio was untouchable until Cars 2 broke the streak, but is this sequel as bad as it seems? The truth is, while Cars is not on par with Pixar’s high standards, it is a middle of the road movie at worst and to kids, likely still a lot of fun. The shift in tone is drastic and some of the original’s heart is lost in the process, but I think the real issue for me is moving the spotlight to Mater over good old Lightning. Mater was a fun comic relief in the first movie, but here he is stretched thin and just isn’t a lead character. The movie seems to recognize this, as it throws in numerous supporting characters to distract us and of course, goes all out with the action/spy elements. This is once again a fish out of water tale, with Mater dizzy in the world of polished, refined cars, but it just doesn’t work as well this time. But there is still some of the Pixar magic on showcase, but is is more in the visuals and set pieces, rather than the characters and story threads. So no, Cars 2 isn’t up to Pixar’s usual standards, but in the big picture, it is still a passable movie.
While the story isn’t up to snuff, the movie’s animation is gorgeous and displays Pixar’s consistent level of visual greatness. I still love the world of this series and it was cool to see a wider vision of that world, as the movie takes us to several new locations all over the planet. The attention to detail is once again remarkable, with all kinds of little touches thrown in to give the world depth, as well as make references to Pixar’s other projects. Most of the characters are new, so there’s some fun new designs to check out and thanks to the action scenes, we get to see Pixar bring some epic, big set pieces to life in glorious fashion. So even if you don’t love the other aspects of Cars 2, the visuals alone are a real treat and justify at least one session. As I said before, moving Mater to the lead seems like a poor choice and Larry the Cable Guy’s performance is a key reason why, as he simply isn’t lead material here. His role in the original was about right, a wisecrack here and there, but not a constant, overwhelming presence. He is overused here and it brings down the movie. Owen Wilson and Bonnie Hunt return, while new cast members include Michael Caine, Eddie Izzard, Emily Mortimer, John Turturro, and of course, the great Franco Nero.