- the cinematic musings of a self-certified geek


Cars 2 - Dir. John Lasseter, 106mins, USA, 2011

Black Swan

Copyright MainstreamMatt/Mainstream 2005-2011

Unless you’re one of the millions of kids currently swooshing a Lightning McQueen toy across the carpet, surely this is the least anticipated of the summer sequels, behind only the return of Johnny English. John Lasseter gets behind the wheel of his pet project, the follow-up to PIXAR’s least successful, and by their own extraordinarily high standards, distinctly average 2006 effort, Cars.


Reloacting the action from Radiator Springs, this sequel takes a globe-trotting approach to proceedings by having McQueen (Owen Wilson) take up an offer to race in the World Grand Prix at the behest of superstar Formula 1 car, Francesco Bernoulli (Turturro). Tagging along is rusty tow truck, Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), bringing along his penchant for stupidity, and threatening to put the skids under McQueen’s challenge and their friendship.


With nowhere to go narrativly after exhausting the racing movie plot mechanics in part one, Cars 2 then decides to shoehorn in a rather ill-fitting spy farce which pushes the increasingly tedious Mater to the forefront of proceedings. On the other hand this means we get Michael Caine voicing super-spy Finn McMissile, but even his vocal gravitas can’t prevent Cars 2 from becoming PIXAR’s biggest failure.


The main problem comes down to the anthropomorphism of the vehicles; of course this wont bother the kids, who’ll be agog at the bright colours and simplistic humour, but a bored adult will start picking apart the weirdness of the Cars universe, with characters hard to dirrerentaite between,  beyond the colour of their bodywork. And it’s easy to empthasise with a spaceman and an identity crisis, but try a underwhelmingly voiced sportscar that gets mildy annoyed with his best mate?


The quality of the visuals are never going to be in question; from the Route 66 dustbowl vistas to the neon drenched electric skyline of the big city, Cars 2’s paint job is very, very impressive. The problem is that this is the first time that PIXAR have been found wanting in the script department. There isn’t a hint of the usual narrative depth or character development, it’s all spit and polish with nothing beneath the hood.


The fun that’s to be found is in spotting the numerous voice cast – Lewis Hamilton, Eddie Izzard, and the film stealing John Turturro – and the high octane finale that see’s the Pixar geniuses smother the grimy London streets in a retro cuteness. It’s just a shame that the lack of genuine comedy and repetetive nature of the plot will mean that your attention span will have pitted long before it arrives.


When a movie from Pixar isnt even in the 3 best animated films for this year – Tangled, Kung-Fu Panda 2, and Studio Ghibli’s forthcoming masterpiece Arrietty -  then you know somethings wrong; time to park the Cars back in the garage.