Lightning McQueen and Mater are back, for better or worse, threatening to bore audiences in Cars 2, the critically panned sequel to the worst Pixar movie ever made. After the dull brainsucker that was the original Cars, many Pixar fans – especially of the adult variety – scoffed at the idea that Pixar was overlooking other sequel-worthy properties, such as The Incredibles, to make yet another movie about talking cars reflecting on the simple things in life. Cars 2 also represents the first obvious cash grab for the studio that can [almost] do no wrong.
Thankfully, Cars 2 is not the nostalgic throwback to yesteryear the title suggests but a fast-paced spy thriller that spans the globe. Spy thriller, you say? With billions of dollars in toy sales in mind, Pixar tossed all thematic elements from the original, taking the frame but replacing the innards with a whole new engine.
The new engine isn’t as shiny, polished or thoughtful as its original parts, but what it lacks in style it makes up in pure horsepower. Since I don’t know much about cars, I’ll switch gears and cut the puns: Cars 2 is a surprisingly fun little movie that doesn’t entirely shed the pitfalls of the franchise but has enough antics to please its target audience.
Whereas Cars focused on Lightning McQueen, Cars 2 gives more weight to lovably dumb Mater, who is unwittingly drawn into an international espionage case that has him racing against time to save his friend from being destroyed by an evil oil syndicate. The plot unfolds with one action sequence after the next, often with Mater unaware of what’s actually happening. It isn’t clever – it isn’t quintessential Pixar – but the antics will leave little kids giggling.
From a financial viewpoint, Cars 2 makes sense. From a branding perspective, it’s unfortunate to see that Pixar tied up its valuable resources to extend a franchise based on their worst creation. The paradox is that the sequel is in many ways dumber and less elaborate than its predecessor, yet more fun to watch and mindlessly entertaining. It’s not vintage Pixar, not even close, but it’s an adequately entertaining action-comedy that kids will enjoy.
Cars 2 is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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