Movie review: Cars 2 offers more layers than a good paint jobMon, 20 Jun 2011 00:00:00 -0700
There is layer upon layer of intricate detail in the movie Cars 2, the sequel to the successful 2006 Pixar release Cars. So much detail, in fact, that you might want to wait until the DVD comes out so that you can freeze the frames and pick out all of the subtle automotive styling cues that abound within.
But go see the movie. It's worth every frame to see the transformation of what used to be our planet to a purely automotive paradise.
The Pixar team once again constructed an entire world where cars, trucks and boats are the characters. The only hint of a human presence is a ladder hanging from a huge mining truck that Tow Mater and Lightning McQueen upend when they go "tractor tipping." Everything else--from bridge abutments to cathedral domes--has touches of internal combustion somewhere in it.
Transverse leaf springs hold up a bridge in Paris, snow on Mt. Fuji looks like tire tracks, the top of the Arc de Triomphe is a big valve cover, the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral (Car-thedral?) in London is a differential and Big Ben is now Big Bentley.
You'll see details that barely have time to register, and which had to have taken weeks if not months of work on someone's behalf, that then disappear as we are flung forward in this fast-paced film. One 12-minute race scene in Italy is composed of 250 shots, each one featuring car-themed buildings, bridges and barricades.
It must be exhausting to work at Pixar. All that hard work is worth it, though, as the movie is so visually intriguing that it will have you wishing you could freeze each frame in the theater.
Racing themes with which you'll be familiar also abound. The real Jeff Gordon voices a Chevrolet Corvette C6.R named Jeff Gorvette while Lewis Hamilton voices a McLaren supercar named . . . Lewis Hamilton. Up in the announcers booth are a Chevy Monte Carlo named Darrell Cartrip, a Jaguar E-type named David Hobbscap and a Ford Mustang named Brent Mustangburger. We'll let you figure those out.
But the directors--Pixar chief John Lasseter and Ratatouille director Brad Lewis--may have been so successful in creating the world in which Cars 2 plays out that they lost some of the simplicity that made the first Cars--as well as so many other Pixar movies--such successes.
When Cars 2 does deliver its life lessons, they don't come as the gentle epiphanies of Cars or Toy Story so much as public-service announcements. Then it's time to rush back out in the world and start the chase anew. It's not that you'll get lost in the twin plots driving the movie along, but the charm that came from the first Cars was in the simple, slow-paced truths that revealed themselves over time in the forgotten desert town of Radiator Springs.
Aw, everyone's a script doctor.
The premise of the movie centers on small-town seeming simpleton Tow Mater, voiced once again by Larry the Cable Guy. For only the second time in his life--he left once in Cars to help his buddy McQueen race in California--Tow Mater leaves the safe confines of Radiator Springs. But not just for a jaunt over the Carburetor County line. This time, Mater follows his best friend and the world's fastest race car Lightning McQueen--voiced again by Owen Wilson--around the world to Tokyo, the Italian Riviera and London as McQueen enters the three-race World Grand Prix. Originally the World Grand Prix was going to have more races, but there's only so much detail you can pack into a full-length feature film.
You'd think traveling the globe following an international race of champions would provide enough excitement on which to hang a movie. But there are two parallel plots going on here. An evil organization of lemons--disgruntled Yugos, Gremlins and Pacers--bent on eliminating alternative fuel is using the World Grand Prix to sabotage the promising clean technology and force the world to stay on a diet of hydrocarbons. The two plots cross when Mater is mistaken for an American spy and things race on from there. We don't want to give too much of it away.
You'll enjoy Cars 2 and the transformation and redemption that comes to Mater in this movie just as it did to McQueen in the first Cars, but the best part might be a few months from now when the DVD comes out and you can start picking out all of those clever little car themes in every scene.
Cars 2 opens on Friday, June 24.
By Mark Vaughn