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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
U
Cast
Owen Wilson
Michael Caine
Bonnie Hunt
Larry The Cable Guy
John Ratzenberger.
Directors
Brad Lewis
John Lasseter.
Screenwriters
Ben Queen.
Running Time
112 mins minutes

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Cars 2
Formula fun


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Plot
Superstar race car Lightning McQueen (Wilson) is cajoled by his tow truck buddy Mater (The Cable Guy) to compete in the World Grand Prix, a tripartite tournament across Japan, Italy and Blighty. Yet Mater is mistaken by British spies Finn McMissile (Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Mortimer) as an American agent and gets embroiled in a hunt for a camera with hidden powers.


Review
Cars 2
Browse more images »
As Pixar tradition dictates, Cars 2 stars with a short. Hawaiian Vacation revisits the Toy Story gang who, after Ken and Barbie are left behind from Bonnie’s summer holiday, recreate a perfect tropical idyll for the Mattel lovebirds to share their first kiss. It is pitch-perfect Pixar: a strong set-up delivered with jokes, filmmaking flair, perfect character moments — Mr. Pricklepants’ alien audition is genius — smarts and sentiment, all topped off with a post-credits payoff that works a treat.

This reminder of Pixar’s high benchmark doesn’t make life any easier for Cars 2. Coming off the back of the studio’s least favourably reviewed film — it currently sits at 74 per cent at Rotten Tomatoes — and one of its lower-grossing flicks (it made $462 million worldwide so it’s all relative), the movie has built itself up into a franchise through a series of shorts and spin-off merchandise. A kind of Doc Hollywood with a NASCAR replacing Michael J. Fox, the original was that rare children’s film that suggested you ease up a bit, live life in the slow lane. This time round, things have been amped up considerably, transplanting hot rod Lightning McQueen and thicko tow truck Mater not only into a globe-trotting Grand Prix, but also into a slick espionage flick circa 1966. The two strands never really cohere, but deliver enough spy-cool, visual fizz and comedic touches to entertain.

From the retro fittings of The Incredibles to WALL•E’s adoration of Hello Dolly, Pixar has always been enamoured with ’60s pop culture, and Cars 2 positively thrums with it. From Michael Giacchino’s stupidly catchy Finn McMissile guitar riffs, to a delight in gizmos and gadgetry, to impenetrable coded secret-agent greetings, this is a love letter not only to 007, but also to American counterparts like The Man From U. N. C. L. E. and Get Smart. A terrific opening set-piece sees Michael Caine’s Finn McMissile, an Aston Martin overflowing with Q Department firepower, infiltrate the baddies’ oil rig and the subsequent escape is a potent reminder that Pixar can hold its own against anybody in the action stakes. Be it a nighttime Tokyo race or a high-speed runway rumpus courtesy of Jason Isaacs’ spy plane, Cars 2 is at its best when it is on the move.

It is in the bits between the action, the Pixar specialities of plot points and character beats, that the movie does less well. The narrative is admirably complicated — everyone is chasing a camera which can generate an electro-magnetic pulse that can destroy the cars mid race — but offers little in the way of surprises. There are tons of new characters but, save the Brit spy duo of McMissile and Emily Mortimer’s Holley Shiftwell and John Turturro’s Formula 1 demon Francesco Bernoulli, few register.

It is also hard to remember a more talk-driven Pixar movie, but little of the dialogue crackles or pops. There are first-base jokes about cultural difference, wasabi mistaken for ice cream hijinks, over-emotional Italians and wrong-side-of-the-road gags. The relationship dynamics between McQueen and Mater are too simply drawn, the moralising, as McQueen asks his gauche friend to change to fit into the wider world, too on the nose. It’ll play perfectly for the young but, for once with Pixar, that’s all it does.

As ever, there are stunning little grace notes (watch the mud speckle the camera as the race cars speed by), lovingly realised street scenes and the frame is filled with inspired visual puns. But the film never truly finds its mojo, its heartbeat. If you want a barometer of the difference between top-drawer Pixar and Cars 2, you could do worse than listen to the songs. Randy Newman’s songs for the Toy Story series are smart, charming and heartfelt. Country star Brad Paisley’s tunes are pleasant but forgettable. The former will last for the ages. The latter works well enough for now.


Verdict
It’s not vintage Pixar, but Cars 2 is still streets ahead of most of the animated pack. For all its energy and Bondian panache, perhaps its problems are insurmountable: Pixar’s cars — and their universe — don’t resonate and endear as much as its toys, monsters, clownfish and OAP dreamers.


Reviewed by Ian Freer

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Cars 2
Empire Star Rating

RE: Car Sick

From the plot, to the pacing, to Mater. Cars 2 is An overblown, bloated, annoying excuse for selling merchandise. It just makes no sense all around without its just for marketing boosts. This is not the way that Pixar should spend their 25th Anniversary. I just simply don't see why the movie Cars needed a sequel. Why don't you give a sequel to great Pixar's like The Incredibles or Finding Nemo? (Nemo is getting a sequel, I know) Why? Just Why? Why would this be necessary? But honestly, the REAL ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Darren47 at 20:14, 25 January 2014 | Report This Post


A Great Film Which Has Sold Out Tons Of Merchandise!

Despite only seeing the film once one year ago, I can remember the film quite well. It has some exciting action! (As well as James Bond style action!) It had villains (Chick-Hicks was a bully, not a villain.) And it had some very interesting moments in it as well. I am British myself and seeing what The Cars World Of London would look like made me feel more welcome into this movie, especially with The Big Ben Clock-Tower being one of the highlights of the film. A great film which kids and Pixar ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by SebMModerns at 22:57, 31 August 2012 | Report This Post


Cars 2

Confused, boring, stupid. Overblown and over the top. Least favorite Pixar film. Totally missed the mark. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 22:57, 23 February 2012 | Report This Post


Cars 2

Confused, boring, stupid. Overblown and over the top. Least favorite Pixar film. Totally missed the mark. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 22:57, 23 February 2012 | Report This Post


Stil Good Fun to watcg

Not all films can be perfect and this isn't faultess but the storytelling is better than the original Cars! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by stp123192 at 18:05, 10 February 2012 | Report This Post


Cars 2 Review

Cars 2 is as visually appealing as any other Pixar production, but all that dazzle can't disguise the rusty storytelling under the hood. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 00:06, 14 December 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Does this bother anyone else?

I 've seen it the other day and thought i was wonderful, funny and pretty entertaining. ... More

Posted by m_er at 11:55, 07 December 2011 | Report This Post


Does this bother anyone else?

The Cars universe doesn't make sense. Who built them all in the first place? Why are there farms and tractors that act like cows if they don't need to farm in the first place? How can Mater write a letter if he doesn't have hands? Even fantasy stories should have some kind of internal logic! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Enzino at 09:36, 29 November 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Crash and burn

L: bozo More enjoyable than the first one and definitely not deserving the hate. It's for kids, you know - it's not supposed to be groundbreaking art. Saying that, I hope Brave is more daring and original ote] So you´re saying lazy? I´ll stick with pointless crap. ... More

Posted by thetruth at 08:22, 21 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Crash and burn

More enjoyable than the first one and definitely not deserving the hate. It's for kids, you know - it's not supposed to be groundbreaking art. Saying that, I hope Brave is more daring and original ... More

Posted by bozo at 01:52, 21 October 2011 | Report This Post


Crash and burn

With the focus of the first film mainly on Mcqueen; I wasn't sure of what to make of the film when I first sat down. When the opening occurred with Michael Caine I was ready to lay back in my seat and wait for the film to be over and then walk out. I'm not a big fan of the latest animation's produced by Pixar/Disney- but this film took me by surprise- the trend of Spy's and detectives have overwhelmed 2011 which allowed a lot of people to breathe since the vampire saga last year. I felt th... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by cloud4ever at 21:03, 14 September 2011 | Report This Post


We wanted to see a film that didn't make you tense, wasn't scary and was just good old fashioned FUN! This filled the brief. We had a great time watching this one and took a time out from recent stresses of life. Yes the room was full of kids, but hey it is Summer holiday, but luckily they all behaved! Even saw a reference of my favourite programme in the film too (DC) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BinkyPower at 14:13, 25 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Stuck in 1st gear

I was initially really angry that they even thought it was a good idea to think of making a sequel.    I only went to see it because I have a Cineworld card and it was on... Honestly I had low expectations for it. There was no need for a Cars 2, especially with it been a spy film!! What a load of crap.... I have to admit though I was entertained for a bit of it... I loved to middle of the film, it was even better when I made myself believe it had nothing to do with Cars.. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bbowes at 15:54, 15 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Stuck in 1st gear

This was utter crud.Dull meandering nonsense that achieved the rare feat of boring adults AND children alike. Lassiter made a decent attempt at an unconventional story the first time around,but this is epic in it's lack of anything approaching quality. Overly long and simply boring.Avoid at all costs. 1 star. ... More

Posted by thetruth at 00:38, 04 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Stuck in 1st gear

In a world populated entirely by cars alk, agent Finn McMissile narrowly escapes with his life on his latest mission.  Meanwhile, Lightning McQueen returns to Radiator Springs having won his fourth Piston Cup and is looking forward to spending time with Mater and Sally.  When famed millionaire Miles Axelrod appears on TV advertising a new alternative fuel source called Allinol and is organising a new three race competition to use and promote it, McQueen is talked into racing... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 21:28, 03 August 2011 | Report This Post


Stuck in 1st gear

Despite Cars1 being the weakest of the Pixar rides, was still willing to get onboard the Lasseter Cars2 vehicle. The cars & locations are visually stunning - colours and locations leap out the screen with detailed action sequences. Beyond that, it lacked the endearing charm and wit of previous Pixar flicks, had no real memorable moments and how annoying was that Tow Truck! Formulaic fun and fluff - guess young kids will love it and it will sell a shed load of merchandise making it a hug... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Arwen001 at 17:55, 01 August 2011 | Report This Post


16 years ago, Pixar Animation Studios released the first feature length computer animated film in history, Toy Story. What followed was an incredible run of success, an 11 film hot streak that yielded dozens of awards (including 11 Oscars), billions of dollars in box office receipts, and the admiration of audiences and critics everywhere. Year after year Pixar was a company you could rely on, and while not all the films were perfect, they all were at least of decent quality, and light years ahea... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tinribs27 at 05:19, 30 July 2011 | Report This Post


A step away from the usual Pixar

The pacing and feel of this film are a step away from Pixar, and a step towards the kind of animation everyone else generally churns out, which is a shame, and puzzling. There are some nice touches, mainly the nod to British spy films of the 60's and 70's, but it just feels a frantic 'in yer face' blur with none of the subleties and feel of every other Pixar film. Even the 'short' is a familiar and slightly tired Toy Story 3 creation, which fires the first warning shots. It feels very much like ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by The kUrGaN at 03:30, 29 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Last Place

Cars was my least favourite Pixar film, but it just got beat by it's seriously disappointing sequel. ... More

Posted by DouglasG at 01:38, 29 July 2011 | Report This Post


Last Place

I took my 6 and 3 year old at the weekend. The youngest one loves cars and racing and CARS1 is his favourite movie. The simple premise of Cars1 easily registers as does all the characters however the more tricky plot clearly left him cold and he only got excited during the (brief) race parts of the film. The older of the two sat. and watched. and left and really didn't react during the movie at all. For me I only laughed the once when Mater did an intro between The Queen, McQueen & McMis... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Flickmeister at 10:29, 28 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Car sick

L: Deviation BITCH FIGHT sp; Where? Darth silas might be interested in watching. ... More

Posted by shool at 12:10, 27 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Car sick

L: Drone L: BatSpider Took my lil nephew to see this. Liked the first Cars, was awesome with a lot of simple charm. Cars 2 is utter shite for attention-deficite morons. This is basically Transformers 3 style lobotomy for under-5s, by parents who don't care. My nephew also hated it. He has cool taste. b]Yawn.  And reporting your post for being disgustingly insulting and offensive.I assure you I am a very good parent and my intelligent little boy of under five wanted to see Car... More

Posted by bozo at 11:38, 27 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Car sick

BITCH FIGHT ... More

Posted by Deviation at 13:56, 26 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Car sick

L: BatSpider Took my lil nephew to see this. Liked the first Cars, was awesome with a lot of simple charm. Cars 2 is utter shite for attention-deficite morons. This is basically Transformers 3 style lobotomy for under-5s, by parents who don't care. My nephew also hated it. He has cool taste. awn.  And reporting your post for being disgustingly insulting and offensive.  I assure you I am a very good parent and my intelligent little boy of under five wanted to see Cars 2, so I t... More

Posted by Drone at 12:54, 26 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Cars 2

I took my two boys (7 and 9) to see it yesterday and we all had a great time. The boys' verdict was that it was better than Cars. It was fun, funny, fast-moving and exciting. Above all it was entertaining. From my point of view it was better that the film focussed more on Mater than Lightning McQueen. Pixar make high-quality family films which entertain. They cater well for children, but also for the adults. When I think back to some of the films my parents had to sit through with me I cri... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by beancounter at 11:24, 26 July 2011 | Report This Post


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