Blu-ray Review: Pixar’s ‘Cars 2’ Represents Low For Legendary Company

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

CHICAGO – “Cars 2,” recently released on Blu-ray and DVD, is disappointing in 1,000 ways. It would be a lackluster family film no matter who made it but the fact that the most important movie studio of the last twenty years, Pixar, produced a film this boring, uninspired, offensive, and just plain horrendous is nearly soul-crushing. This critic counts “WALL-E,” “Finding Nemo,” and all three “Toy Story” movies among the best films ever made. It’s hard to believe “Cars 2” came from the same production company. It’s barely even the same genre. Blu-Ray Rating: 1.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 1.5/5.0

The first “Cars” was a bit dull, especially in comparison to other Pixar films, but it looks like a masterpiece compared to this mess. The first film was about important issues like valuing friendship over winning and not identifying yourself purely with competition. It had its issues, but it was a generally sweet film that was ably assisted by its talented voice crew, especially Paul Newman, who added a bit of gravity that’s totally missing from the follow-up. Instead of building on what worked about that film or expanding on its themes (as both “Toy Story” sequels do), the creators of “Cars 2” have delivered an action film, a piece of nauseating eye candy with some striking visuals but flat characters, boring storytelling, and lackluster comedy.

Cars 2
Cars 2
Photo credit: Disney

“Cars 2” is a spy movie in which Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) has basically been replaced by Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). Honestly, it’s not that dissimilar from a Larry the Cable Guy comedy if the human characters were replaced by animated vehicles. In other words, you have to really like the comedy of Larry to enjoy “Cars 2” on a humor level. His redneck-fish-out-of-water routine worked reasonably well in small doses in “Cars” but becomes grating and annoying given more screen time.

Cars 2 was released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 1st, 2011
Cars 2 was released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 1st, 2011
Photo credit: Disney

How does Mater get out front? Honestly, I could barely tell you. I became so disinterested in the storytelling of “Cars 2” that I pretty much zoned out, concentrating more on the visuals. On its foundation, the story is a classic case of mistaken identity in that Mater, who is traveling with Lightning on a world tour, is mistaken for a spy. Yes, “Cars 2” is a spy movie, complete with gunfire and explosions, which may be the most disappointing thing about the film. When Gatling Guns pop out of Mater’s car and he shoots a bunch of other cars, I literally get a little sick to my stomach. That’s not what Pixar should be about. Pixar has long been a creative force for what is so often missing from family entertainment — imagination, community, peace — and so seeing a film with the Pixar brand that’s so ridiculously violent is downright upsetting.

Visually, “Cars 2” is strong. The international scope of the story could be seen as merely another way to appeal to the non-domestic market but it also makes for some exciting locations. And the film looks stunning on Blu-ray with another impressive HD transfer from Disney, still one of the best out there in terms of family film Blu-ray/DVD packages. I still have serious issues with the design of characters like Lightning and Mater (they’re SO boring on a design level) but the backgrounds and visual flow of the film are notably impressive. The film looks like it cost money. They just should have spent some more of it on the screenwriting.

Yes, I know. The audience for “Cars 2” is primarily boys who want to see Lightning go real fast and a few explosions along the way only make the race more interesting. I shouldn’t take it so seriously. But I clearly wasn’t alone in my sincere disappointment as the highly-anticipated film had the smallest total domestic box office since “A Bug’s Life.” Now, it’s crossed $550 million worldwide and will surely make a mint on Blu-ray and DVD, and so it’s a hit by most metrics, but the low critical response has to be a bit jarring to the people at Pixar. The best way to look at “Cars 2” is that the other shoe had to drop eventually. Maybe they just had to get it out of their system. Now let’s all forget it ever happened.

It is also worth noting that this is the least-impressive Blu-ray release for Pixar/Disney. Most of their films come with copious special features about the making of the production. This one just has a commentary and two shorts — “Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation” and “Cars Toon: Air Mater.” One guess which one is better.

“Cars 2” features voice work by Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Cine, Emily Mortimer, Jason Isaacs, and Eddie Izzard. It was written by Ben Queen and directed by John Lasseter & Brad Lewis. It was released on Blu-ray and DVD by Disney on November 1st, 2011. content director Brian Tallerico

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