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3D Blu-ray Review: Cars 2
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Cars 2 Blu-ray 3D 5-Disc ComboCars 2
5-Disc Blu-ray 3D | 2-Disc Blu-ray | DVD
DIRECTED BY: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis
WRITTEN BY: Ben Queen
STARRING: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, John Turturo, Bonnie Hunt, Jason Isaacs, Thomas Kretschmann, Eddie Izzard
Disney*Pixar
RELEASE DATE: November 1, 2011

I love Pixar movies. And I don’t just mean that loosely; I mean I truly and honestly LOVE Pixar movies. From that first wide-eyed viewing of Toy Story back in 1995 to today, they’ve released some of the best (and some of my own personal favorite) movies of all time.

Even my least favorite Pixar movie—2006’s Cars—is a movie I still very much enjoy, despite the fact that I went in thinking I wouldn’t be a fan (shame on me for thinking such things about a Pixar flick). That’s just how good they are. And so you can imagine my and many, many others’ surprise when a veritable landslide of negative feedback started flowing in upon the release of their latest feature, Cars 2.

Could it be so? Could there really be a…bad *gulps* Pixar movie? Or was this just a case of constant perfection leading people to go out of their way to seek out imperfections and declare failure no matter how good or bad the actual film was?

Cars 2 picks back up in Radiator Springs, now a lively and bustling little town where all our favorite talking vehicles are happily residing. Superstar race car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is taking a break from the racing life to spend time with his lady-friend Sally (Bonnie Hunt), and his best friend Mater (Larry the Cable Guy).

All is well until one day former oil tycoon Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard), who’s since “gone green” and become an advocate for sustainable energy, announces a tri-country World Grand Prix race using and promoting his new environmentally safe biofuel, Allinol. McQueen isn’t going to race at first, but when a cocky Italian Formula One race car named Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro) challenges him and insults his integrity, he decides to race. And this time, after some urging from Sally, he’s taking Mater with him.

What they don’t know, however, is that there’s an evil plan in motion, being carried out by a group of “lemon” cars (beaters, basically) led by Professor Zündapp (Thomas Kretschmann) and a secret mastermind. They have a special TV camera that’s actually a high-level laser that will instantly ignite the Allinol fuel in the cars causing them to inexplicably crash and leading everyone to blame Allinol, effectively boosting the sale of oil.

Secret spy cars Finn McMissle (Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) are on to the lemon cars’ plan, but when Mater is accidentally mistaken as an undercover spy he finds himself in the middle of the espionage, helping to stop the lemon’s plans and also trying to save Lightning McQueen from falling victim to the dangerous weapon being used to ignite the fuel.

To be perfectly honest, all the ingredients were here to make a really great sequel to Cars. An intense James Bond-goes-green action storyline, a great cast of new and returning voice actors, and the undoubted advantage of being put together by the best storytellers on the planet in Pixar, not to mention being directed by the godfather of feature length animated movies, John Lasseter, who directed Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, and Toy Story 2 before taking on Cars and Cars 2.

Sadly, I found myself realizing as the movie went on that I was more and more understanding of all of the aforementioned negative criticism the movie got, and that made me kind of sad. It’s a dark day when something or someone known and loved for the perfection they deliver fails to deliver something of the utmost level of quality that’s expected of them.

The biggest problem for me wasn’t any one specific thing, either; it was a collection of things that combined to create a very un-Pixar tone. Cars 2 doesn’t FEEL like a Pixar movie, it feels like a direct-to-video Disney sequel with a huge budget. It feels like one of those movies we see released by other competing animation studios that comes nowhere near what Pixar delivers film after film after film. It feels…wrong. So very wrong.

This is mostly caused by the script and the voice acting, with a lot of good components not being put together in an appealing way and lifeless performances highlighting the already evident problems. A big part of the movie is the cliché scenario that sees McQueen getting annoyed and embarrassed by his sometimes ignorant BFF Mater. This leads to a lot of awkward moments that are more uncomfortable than useful, and the script was littered with weak points like this.

Then comes the voice acting, which only makes matters worse by being really stale and cheesy, lacking that emotion that’s so important to Pixar’s films. It sounds like some of the actors weren’t even paying attention, distracted by the latest iPhone app as they read from their script. Something’s clearly off when you can hear the disinterest.

Still, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, albeit a very small light. I was pleased by the animation work, as always. There’s a lot of incredible visuals and stunning locations to take in, and they all look fantastic on Blu-ray. It’s a little depressing that this was the only thing I truly enjoyed about the movie, but you take what you can get I suppose. Where the story and characters left me wanting, I did have something attractive to look at in the very least.

I wish I could say that your children might like the movie even if you don’t, but there’s so much action and spy movie elements mixed with all that political hoo-ha people don’t like to see in their animated family films, I fear even kids would have trouble enjoying it.

Cars 2 isn’t the worst movie you’ll ever see; in fact, it’s probably still better than a lot of the animated flicks other studios release. But it is still a Pixar movie, and as such, we have incredibly high expectations. And unfortunately, this one simply didn’t even come close to meeting those expectations. I can’t begin to tell you how much it pains me to talk about a Pixar movie negatively—it’s like insulting a close friend behind their back—but hopefully this is the first and only time a movie they release doesn’t quite live up.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Thankfully, if the movie doesn’t quite work for you as it didn’t for me, there’s a ton of special features to enjoy on the five-disc combo pack, which includes the movie on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, and a Blu-ray disc with just bonus features.

On the same disc as the movie, there’s two new animated shorts: Hawaiian Vacation and Air Mater (all versions of the movie have these shorts). The latter is the tenth segment in the “Cars Toons” series, and follows Mater as he learns to fly

The former is a Toy Story short where the gang puts on a Hawaiian vacation for Ken, who thought he was going to the real place with Bonnie and her family. It’s only around five minutes in length, but I liked it more than I did Cars 2. And I don’t say that to be cruel, I’m just that big of a Toy Story fan.

After that is the Blu-ray bonus features disc, which has multiple locations around the world for you to visit from Radiator Springs to London to Italy and Tokyo, each a part of the movie and each with a few short featurettes to peek at from that part of the movie. There’s also a sneak peek at the making of “Cars Land,” the Cars-themed park that will open in the summer of 2012

For example, the first is the Pacific, which includes a look at the opening scene—probably the best scene in the whole movie—and getting the ocean and oil rigs and everything just right. Another feature looks at a car show they do every year at Pixar with all sorts of great cars from old classics to concept cars, many of which are brought by Pixar employees. Others include alternate and deleted scenes and so on.

There’s really SO many features here it would take way too long to run through all of them, but trust me when I say: if you like features, you’ll most likely enjoy this added bonus disc in the five-disc combo. It’s missing a lengthy making of special, but there’s nothing wrong with a bunch of quickfire videos to enjoy.

Note: The Cars 2 3D Blu-ray Combo Pack is currently part of a Sale where you can order any two Disney titles on Blu-ray 3D and Save $10 from now through November 13, 2011.

Trailer

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