Pixar seems immune to the problems that studios normally have with their sequels, in that Pixar’s sequels don’t, you know, stink. Cars 2, like the Toy Story films, captures every bit of sincerity, thrills, and pitch-perfect animation that the original did. It’s a beautifully shot movie with terrific voice characterizations, including a surprisingly awesome turn by Larry the Cable Guy.
In the movie, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) has settled down in Radiator Springs with his girlfriend Sally Carerra (Bonnie Hunt) when he is goaded into joining a three-country race by an Italian Formula One car voiced by John Turturro (who’s hilarious). Naturally, Lightning must take along his bestest best friend, Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), who’s – shall we say – not as world wise as McQueen or the rest of his crew. Hilarity ensues.
To add to the tension, all of the racers are required to use a new alternative fuel invented by eco-awesome-dude Sir Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard), but when a few cars mysteriously explode during the first leg of the race, in Tokyo, people start to wonder if the fuel is indeed safe. Of course it is – because the real culprit – as we learn right away! – is employing electromagnetic pulses to disable the vehicles in the hopes that people will blame the fuel, which will bring them back to good ol’ yummy oil. But tipped off to this subterfuge is British agent Finn McMissle (Michael Caine) who, along with his new-to-the-field sidekick Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer), is out to stop whoever’s behind all of this – and that, my friends, is where Mater comes in.
This isn’t really a Lightning McQueen movie; he’s more of a supporting character, as Mater is unwittingly pulled into the espionage business by the Brits, who mistake him for a fellow agent (those English are so gullible!). But because of Mater’s inelegance and lack of focus, McQueen winds up losing that first race, a result for which he blames a crestfallen Mater. There’s your friendship conflict, always a reliable trope in animation.
The race then shifts to Milan and then London, with Tuturro’s Bernoulli and Wilson’s McQueen trading many a barb and insult (with Bernoulli usually winning). This allows the animators to mix in some awesome scenery from both countries, and you’ll swear it’s filmed rather than animated. Absolutely spell binding.
The two plots, the spy angle and the brotherly friendship deal, dovetail nicely by movie’s end, but not before we’re honestly treated to some spectactular stunt driving (ahem) – off roofs, down parking garages, and so on. It’s like parkour for cars, which most of us would call driving but the cars here probably call walking and climbing.
I saw this movie not only in 3D but also in IMAX. I’ve said harsh things about 3D, and IMAX costs even more per movie. It’s all worth it here. The colors are vibrant, and when something SHOULD leap out at you, it does, and it looks really, really good. The sound is shattering; your seat will rumble. It’s a visual orgy.