Review: Cars 2

Posted by: Andrew Burns  //  June 26, 2011 @ 12:21am

Filed under: Movie Reviews 

Streaks. They are a funny thing. The longer they go on, the more interest they gain. When they are in progress, they almost seem endless or impossible to stop. They turn into a phenomenon and spectacle you just can't help but watch.

They are everywhere -- from a game show contestant winning 74 straight games, to a hockey goaltender's shutout lasting 332 minutes, to a professional football team playing a perfect season. Streaks like these all have two things in common: they're extremely impressive in their run and they all come to an end.

Cars 2 marks the end of Pixar's 25-year streak of making top-quality films.

Maybe it is appropriate, or fitting in a way, that the same man that started this amazing streak is the one to end it. Pixar founder and director of 5 of their 12 feature films, John Lasseter, makes the studio's first ever bad movie in his latest sequel, Cars 2.

The film follows all the characters from Radiator Springs (minus Doc Hudson because of the death of Paul Newman) from the 2006 hit Cars. Five years later, Lightning McQueen has won race after race on the Piston Cup circuit but still calls the small highway town home. Shortly after returning to Radiator Springs at the end of a season, McQueen's best friend, Mater, accidentally forces McQueen to enter the first World Grand Prix race. The race is soon discovered as a front for something sinister and is being investigated by spies from both MI6 and the CIA. Mater is mistaken for a secret agent and then the movie goes to hell from then on out.

Cars 2 breaks two cardinal rules when it comes to movie sequels. The first rule is to make sure that there is a story worth telling to even warrant a second film. That may sound like common sense, but because of the financial benefits that come with making sequels, this rule is constantly bent and broken by Hollywood. No big shock there. The second rule is that the main character in the first film remains the main character for the next film. Again, common sense. When a smaller secondary character becomes your lead in the following film, it is no longer considered a 'sequel' -- it is a now a 'spinoff'. I don't remember Frasier being called Cheers 2: Fun in Seattle. The story of the big city hotshot race car Lightning McQueen being humbled while stuck in small town USA was done in the first film. Adding a '2' at the end of the title and giving Larry the Cable Guy the starring role doesn't change the fact there is no more story left here.

Other than the Toy Story franchise, Pixar had prided themselves on creating fresh and unique characters to help tell their stories for every new feature they made. It was part of the Pixar charm. It is disappointing to see such an amazingly creative team of people become so lazy in making a straight-to-DVD quality feature film with Cars 2.

A huge reason Pixar's previous films have been so successful has been because, even though they are essentially cartoons, they still managed to appeal to adults. Cars 2 has nothing for older audiences, and may even insult some of its younger audience members with how overly childish it is at times. I still, and always will be, a huge Pixar fan, despite this film. When one studio becomes the industry standard, setting the bar higher than all its competition can even reach, it just makes it that much harder to live up to those expectations every time.

With all the disappointment that came from having to sit through Cars 2, there were some excellent things before the movie started: two awesome movie trailers and a Pixar short film, Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation. One trailer was for the 3D re-release of The Lion King and the other was a teaser for Pixar's film Brave. Even though I'm not a big 're-release' fan, both trailers made me want to stand in line for tickets after the goosebumps they gave me. When it came to Hawaiian Vacation, I was laughing my butt off along with every child and parent in the theater at the small, heart-warming story about Ken and Barbie's first kiss. Michael Keaton (Ken), Jodi Benson (Barbie), and the rest of the Toy Story crew delivered more laughs, heart, and story in their 5-minute short film than the feature that followed.

Tags: Cars 2, John Lasseter, Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, The Lion King, Brave, Michael Keaton, Jodi Benson, Toy Story, Pixar

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Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.

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