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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

Car sick

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. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BatSpider at 20:42, 24 July 2011 | Report This Post


Car sick

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. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BatSpider at 20:42, 24 July 2011 | Report This Post


Cars 2

Fast, funny and charming. It's not quite up there with the likes of Toy Story, Finding Nemo or The Incredibles, but it's a lot of fun nonetheless. And Michael Caine's awesome. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Whistler at 00:34, 24 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Flawed world building

I loved it; I took my son to see it this morning.  Far superior to the first.  I've never been much of a fan of Pixar to be honest, so I find it interesting all of you who love all this stuff hate it, whereas I'm the opposite and thought it was fantastic. With the exception of Toy story 1 & 2, I find most of their output a bit dull... didn't particularly enjoy Wall-E, Finding Nemo, Up or even the original Cars - I thought it had a very dull story and felt overlong. ... More

Posted by Drone at 14:46, 23 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Flawed world building

A sequel to Pixars Doc Hollywood remake was completely unnecessary, yet here it is. Sadly its easily the worst of Pixars movies. That's not to say it isn't perfectly watchable, its just so disappointingly standard animated movie fare. Not a great deal for adults in this one, but kids (young boys especially) will undoubtedly love it. 3 stars ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by skeletonjack at 09:13, 23 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Flawed world building

cars were designed so that their front end sub consciously makes a face in your mind (ie the headlights, grille, number plate, badge etc). So why the hell are Cars' cars designed to have eyes in the windscreen... it looks so cheap anyway, and i just see the headlights as their 'eyes'id you not get the joke when Tow Mater was in the car market and he said hey what are you selling? and car with headlights for eyes said headlights! and he got really scared and drove off. ... More

Posted by Bighousewill at 19:52, 22 July 2011 | Report This Post


Its Tow Maters Movie

Cars was not my favorite movie because well I found it childish but I watched cars 2 today and it is a really good movie the story is fun and exciting and it is bright and colourful and nice to look at. The focus is not on the main character Lightning Mcqueen which is why I liked it, I mean it could have been about him and just racing or something but Pixar is all about story. And the Toy Story short is just brilliant worth the price of admission. Don't know what the 3D version was like but I wa... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bighousewill at 18:01, 22 July 2011 | Report This Post


But for 4 year old boys....

It doesn't have to be vintage Pixar. They have an uncritical and very lucrative market in the 4-6 year old boy demographic. I should know, I'm the mum of one. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by kittyp at 21:14, 19 July 2011 | Report This Post


But for 4 year old boys....

It doesn't have to be vintage Pixar. They have an uncritical and very lucrative market in the 4-6 year old boy demographic. I should know, I'm the mum of one. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by kittyp at 18:29, 19 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Flawed world building

L: Ballschin L: mystra yeah that's what i can't get my head around... and Pixar normally builds these fantasy worlds so flawlessly ie Toy Story - it's when the people aren't looking that they come to life, Monsters Inc is sort of a monster world linked to the human world through the doors, etc etc Everything they do normally is to find a fantasy hidden within the reality, and thats what grounds their other films so well. in Cars the world just has the odd changes to... More

Posted by mystra at 15:29, 19 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Flawed world building

L: mystra yeah that's what i can't get my head around... and Pixar normally builds these fantasy worlds so flawlessly ie Toy Story - it's when the people aren't looking that they come to life, Monsters Inc is sort of a monster world linked to the human world through the doors, etc etc Everything they do normally is to find a fantasy hidden within the reality, and thats what grounds their other films so well. in Cars the world just has the odd changes to make our usual world ... More

Posted by Ballschin at 15:04, 19 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Flawed world building

L: Enzino Even fantasy movies have to have some sort of internal logic and the Cars movies don't make sense to me. Who built all these cars? Who builds the houses? The cars certainly can't. Why are there cow cars in Radiator Springs? Do they harvest the motor oil? How do the cars reproduce? So while I think they're all very cute, these logic problems detracts from the story. yeah that's what i can't get my head around... and Pixar normally builds these fantasy worlds so flawlessly ... More

Posted by mystra at 13:13, 19 July 2011 | Report This Post


Flawed world building

Even fantasy movies have to have some sort of internal logic and the Cars movies don't make sense to me. Who built all these cars? Who builds the houses? The cars certainly can't. Why are there cow cars in Radiator Springs? Do they harvest the motor oil? How do the cars reproduce? So while I think they're all very cute, these logic problems detracts from the story. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Enzino at 15:34, 18 July 2011 | Report This Post


Flawed world building

Even fantasy movies have to have some sort of internal logic and the Cars movies don't make sense to me. Who built all these cars? Who builds the houses? The cars certainly can't. Why are there cow cars in Radiator Springs? Do they harvest the motor oil? How do the cars reproduce? So while I think they're all very cute, these logic problems detracts from the story. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Enzino at 15:34, 18 July 2011 | Report This Post


The first time ive thought of a Pixar film as being a cash cow...

And im a huge huge advocate of Pixar. This just feels like a Toy advert....and ive never felt that before. I would imagine Cars 2 was Dinseys idea, not Pixars. Cars has its audience but its certainly not aimed at anyone over 9, which is fair enough. That said the film looks impressibe visually, just has no actual interest for me. Id much rather see an Incredibles 2 personally, but agian im guessing merchandising for that film didnt make them as much money. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by spideed2 at 13:04, 18 July 2011 | Report This Post


The first time ive thought of a Pixar film as being a cash cow...

Deleted repeat post ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by spideed2 at 13:04, 18 July 2011 | Report This Post


Cars 2

To be perfectly, it was quite a fun ride, you know? I mean, it's no WALL-E nor anything of the sort, but it's a good film to chew popcorn with. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 05:08, 18 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Cars 2

I know nothing of either film or the main forum contributors. But from viewing any previous thread in Lists or Musings I expected to see some quote like 'Glossier and Soullesser' or such. Maybe i'm too early. ... More

Posted by JonathanMardukas at 14:22, 15 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Cars 2

L: Deviation L: vad3r Empire, you gave Transformers: Dark of the Moon 2 stars but say it's better than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo which you gave 3 stars each to. Why is this 3 stars and Attack of the Clones 5 stars? e's not being serious folks. I hope. he answer lies within your soul Dev. ... More

Posted by vad3r at 03:33, 15 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Cars 2

L: vad3r Empire, you gave Transformers: Dark of the Moon 2 stars but say it's better than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo which you gave 3 stars each to. Why is this 3 stars and Attack of the Clones 5 stars? e's not being serious folks. I hope. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 02:39, 15 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Cars 2

Empire, you gave Transformers: Dark of the Moon 2 stars but say it's better than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo which you gave 3 stars each to. Why is this 3 stars and Attack of the Clones 5 stars? ... More

Posted by vad3r at 01:54, 15 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Cars 2

L: bozo I wonder... if Cars 2 wasn't Pixar, would it have gotten 3 stars? Maybe it would have been slammed, as it should be. sp; Have you seen it? ... More

Posted by superdan at 11:28, 14 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Cars 2

I wonder... if Cars 2 wasn't Pixar, would it have gotten 3 stars? Maybe it would have been slammed, as it should be. ... More

Posted by bozo at 22:34, 13 July 2011 | Report This Post


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