Saturday, July 2, 2011

Movie – Cars 2 (2011)

So what’s up with this movie?  It’s from Pixar, which has been a guarantee of quality over the years, yet for the first time movie critics have largely given a Pixar movie bad reviews.  Audience scores are quite high, though.  Why the big difference?  One word: Mater.  If you don’t like this character then you won’t like this movie.  If you love this character you will love this movie.  I may be one of the few people in the middle.  I think that this sequel is as good as the original, but I feel the original is one of the weaker Pixar movies.  I like Cars 2 well enough to recommend it, but not to say it is a must see.

The name of the movie is “Cars 2”, but it could just have easily been named “Mater 1.”  This character is front and center as the star of this movie.  Lightning McQueen is still there, but he’s really a supporting character for Mater.

The premise is that McQueen is going to compete in a global grand prix race that will prove the effectiveness of a fuel that is an alternative to gasoline.  Bad guys want to sabotage the race so that people keep buying oil.  Secret agents are trying to stop the bad guys.  McQueen takes Mater along with him for the races, but ends up hurting Mater’s feelings because he is so embarrassing for McQueen.  A message about the importance of friendship comes out of this.  Through a series of misadventures, Mater ends up getting mistaken as an American agent who is there to help bring down the bad guys.

For me, a little bit of Larry the Cable Guy (who voices Mater) goes a long way.  I could have done with less of this character than what was on the screen.  I’m sure this is the dividing line for critics and audiences.  Critics hate the guy, while a large section of the population finds him funny as hell.  I find him funny in small doses.

Luckily, the secret agent spy plot is the major one in the movie and it is quite enjoyable.  Michael Caine voices British secret agent Finn McMissile.  If you ever wondered what it would be like if James Bond’s Aston Martin could be a secret agent, you get to see it in this movie.  Joining him is Emily Mortimer as a young agent named Holley Shiftwell.  She jokes that she has never looked better on screen than in this movie.  The two of them bring Mater along for the ride when they mistake him for an American agent.

Other than appearances by almost all of the characters from the first film, the original and the sequel actually have little to do with each other.  They are two completely different kinds of movies.  To me, this is a good thing.  I wasn’t looking forward to a second Cars movie, frankly.  I felt if they were going to make a sequel, why not pick The Incredibles instead.  Consequently, I went into the movie with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised that I liked the movie well enough to recommend it.

I mentioned almost all of the characters return.  Doc Hudson, voiced by Paul Newman in the original movie, is not one of them.  Newman passed away in 2008 and out of respect for him, Pixar did not bring someone else in to voice the character.  Instead, they have a small tribute in the beginning of the movie with McQueen and Mater visiting a museum in Doc Hudson’s honor. 

This show of respect has angered some George Carlin fans, though.  In the first movie Carlin voiced the minor character of Fillmore, a VW microbus, most of whose lines consisted of some variation of “It’s organic, man.”  Carlin also passed away in 2008, but Pixar kept the Fillmore character in the sequel and had someone else voice him.  Fillmore actually has a more important part to play in the sequel, though, so it makes sense that they brought the character back.  Fillmore is also the character that makes the most sense to include in a movie about alternative fuels.

The movie starts in Radiator Springs, goes to Japan, then France, then Italy, and finally England.  It was fun to see the various car interpretations of the cultural things unique to these countries, especially in Japan. 

One note on the movie’s rating.  It was given a G rating by the MPAA and this has caused some concern.  Some parents took their young children to the movie and were unpleasantly surprised by how much violence there is in it.  I was surprised to learn the movie was not rated PG.  With all the spy stuff going on characters actually die, not too explicitly, but you know what happened to them.  Even Pixar has said that the movie should have been rated PG.

If you hate the Mater character, or if you hate spy movies, then you should probably avoid this film.  Other than that, you might want to give this movie a try and see for yourself if you agree with the movie critics or with the audiences.

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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