Cars 2 is a visually beautiful, absolutely stunning motion picture. The colors are truly amazing – each different location around the world has its own authentic palette. Some of the vehicles, like Lightning McQueen, Tow Mater, and Finn McMissile, the good guy team, are razor-sharp in their execution. And the water effects in this film are beyond belief.
But this is a spy movie, not a kid’s movie. It involves plots and themes that zipped right over my nine year old’s head. She got bored at the halfway mark.
And it’s a violent movie. The first character we meet shows up a few minutes later compressed into one of those cubes you see at the car wrecker’s yard. Another good guy character gets graphically beat up in a rest room. There are explosions and shootings and Mater strapped to a bomb.
And there is bathroom humor. Mater finds himself in a Japanese bidet (although the attempted humor of squirting his undercarriage is offset by the violent beating taking place outside his stall). Mater has an “accident” in public – the unexpected release of motor oil on the Red Carpet of Fame.
And, beyond Mater’s eventual realization that he’s not the brightest crayon in the box, there is no character development. Lightning McQueen realizes that friendship is more important than fame, but he seemed to have done that in the first movie. The super-slick secret agents come to see that Mater, for all his bumbling ineptitude, is the smartest of the bunch (oh pulleeeze).
And this film ultimately breaks the magic of Cars. In the first film it took a few minutes to accept that these were car-people living in a car-world. But once you got over that hurdle, and it wasn’t hard, the rest of the film came naturally. At the end of that film you can’t believe you got that much story and pathos from a bunch of vehicles.
By the end of Cars 2 I found myself wondering why they would serve wasabi, why the Tuscan villas are clustered together like people-houses instead of car-houses, and who did all the work of strapping the many weapons and disguises onto the spy characters. These seemed to be car-people living in a human world that was vaguely modified to accept them.
But there is the rub: this feels like a Band-aid movie, all patched together. It’s a James Bond movie wrapped within Mater’s coarse coming-of-age story. Other than Mater’s involvement it’s a pretty good spy film. But it’s not for kids. But if not for kids, for whom was this film made?
Car guys may enjoy the many vehicular references, although they lack the depth of the first film. Spy movie buffs may enjoy the tributes to classic films but will see right through the paper-thin plot. And kids will enjoy… well, Mater has an “accident” and eats Wasabi and… there’s just not much here for kids.
Do yourself a favor and wait for Cars 2 to hit the DVDs and then rent it. Compression to the small screen will make the colors even brighter, and you can skip to the end without missing much.