Cars 2 Directed by John Lasseter
Starring (voices): Larry the Cable Guy, Owen Wilson, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, John Turturro, Eddie Izzard
Release Date: June 24, 2011
Any human aspect or human presence cannot be located in the original Cars or in Pixar’s latest film Cars 2. This is the films’ biggest set back. We who have become transfixed by the genius behind the films of Pixar (which is celebrating 25 years of studio existence this year) remember all too vividly the ruthless food critic, Anton Ego, of Ratatouille swallowing a bit of ratatouille and immediately becoming reacquainted with a childhood he had seemingly forgotten. And who can forget Andy’s feeling of anguish and the sad grimace that takes over his face in Toy Story 3 when he finally figures out that he needs to give away his toys. Almost all of the successful Pixar films have an unbreakable relationship with all things human. Cars 2 veers from that ostensibly perfect trajectory to embrace a world where no existence of human life has ever been documented. This all sounds a tad bleak, but that is the world we are thrust into with the Cars’ films.
The lack of emotional warmth and human heart cannot be made or mended by shiny automobiles that are descendants from a multitude of different countries. It is near impossible. Director John Lasseter (Toy Story and Cars) surely knows this. With Cars 2 he crafts a tale endlessly replete with acts of espionage, intrigue, corruption, double-crosses, misconstrued identities, and awe inspiring landscapes, drenching his movie in all of this and dismissing all parts of the original film’s narrative, which was a coming-of-age tale. By triumphantly dissembling all aspects of the original film, Cars 2 is able to emerge and present itself as a film that harbors a reputable distinction to tell a story that has no reliance on the film’s original script.
All of this (espionage, spy, intrigue) sounds acutely akin to a plot in a James Bond film, and it should be because that is what Cars 2 essentially is. The film is unabashed in indulging in 60’s spy film nostalgia. Everything from retro British sports cars to a score that defines impeccable coolness to the dynamic renderings of Tokyo, Italy, and England; we are immensely enveloped in the innumerable dreamy expanses of Lasseter’s vision. He understands all of this. But maybe more importantly are his understandings of his own infatuation with automobiles and of his inner-child.
It must have been a great escape for Lasseter to make this film. He probably rekindled many of his childhood memories that were of him playing with little toy cars and creating outlandish situations for them to endure. Surely not only Lasseter has such memories. We all can relate to a particular situation. Lasseter, who wrote the film’s script along with Ben Queen, conjures up a fictitious race, the World Grand Prix. Lighting McQueen (Owen Wilson), fresh off of his fourth straight Piston Cup championship, gets an invite to the elite race that only welcomes the greatest race cars around the world to participate in three races in Japan, Italy, and England. Sir Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard) has created an alternative way to fuel cars that could preserve natural oil. He wants the sport cars to use his fuel at the World Grand Prix. Another invitee is Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro), an Italian formula racecar who has a huge ego and appetite to defeat McQueen. McQueen rounds up his troops from good ole Radiator Springs and brings them along to Tokyo, where the race commences.
Among them is Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), the contented and disheveled tow-truck who is happy-go-lucky despite any circumstance. His idiotic and simplistic qualities get him caught in a scheme that could confound even James Bond. A British agent (Michael Caine), Finn McMissile, along with his agent, Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer), two fancy British sport cars, are currently investigating a situation involving oil and cars that are labeled ‘lemons’ or clunkers. Soon enough Mater finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes entangled in an international war.
This is an odd Pixar film. It sacrifices that familiar emotional pang evident in all of their previous films in exchange for glitz, glamor, and gratifying images and sounds that cater to our eyes and ears. The intimacy and innocence of Radiator Springs are long gone, giving way to the sensational renderings of international cities and an abundance of exaggerated action. Cars 2 is undoubtedly a full-fledged action picture, and we need to embrace all of the pleasures that it serves.