Welcome back to Pixar Countdown Reviews, which we take a look at and review all seventeen theatrical Pixar films every Friday leading up to the release of Pixar’s Cars 3 this summer. Take a look back at some of our previous entries and stay tuned every Friday as we cover all of Pixar’s incredible films.
Cars 2… It’s easily Pixar’s most disliked film and that seems to be universal among audiences. Now, every time we get a trailer for a Pixar film, look in the YouTube comments. I’m certain there will usually be a “Please don’t let this be another Cars 2” thrown in there. So I’m going to make it quite clear. I don’t think Cars 2 is a bad film. At all. It has some flaws, yes, but it is still a highly enjoyable, action packed film. Frankly, I always have a blast watching it.
Cars 2 takes place not too long after the original Cars. The story feels like a natural progression from the first film, almost as if it was planned since the beginning. I love when Pixar does that. When they make a sequel fit so seamlessly into the franchise it feels as it they wanted to make it all along. However, the first act, is a bit messy and disjointed, considering the set up between both the “McQueen World Grand Prix” story and the “Mater being mistaken for a spy” story. But by the third act, both stories are woven together really well, even if the ending doesn’t make that much sense. I think both of the stories here are great, and I loved the film’s homage to James Bond-esque spy films, but with a bit more focus, the film could have been much better.
Cars 2 went through some major production hell, and that’s clearly why this film is a bit more problematic than Pixar’s other films. However, given all that the film went through, I’m shocked that it’s even watchable, let alone a great movie. I applaud John Lasseter and the crew for doing what they can to make something good out of something that had such a troubled production. Though it did lead to some missed opportunities. For example, Doc Hudson’s death was barely mentioned in the film, but was originally supposed to be a huge part of the story, and would have given the film some much-needed heart.
The characters are great. The two main characters are Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater, but while Mater seems to have forgotten much of what he learned in the first Cars, Lightning McQueen shows some real character development when compared to who he was in the first film. Mater, however, does go through a much bigger character arc in this one than he did in the first one. There’s also a bunch of great new characters, my favorites being Finn Mcmissile and Francesco Bernoulli. Other particularly great characters are Holley Shiftwell, Sir Miles Axelrod, and Professor Zundapp. The film really does have a great new cast of characters, along with its returning characters.
The film’s directing is fantastic. John Lasseter really knows how to direct awesome action scenes and the spy genre is one that he never really experimented with before. He knocks it out of the park and makes the film very exciting to watch. The racing scenes are very well shot as well, much like the first film.
The animation is gorgeous. The set design is diverse, as they travel from Japan to Italy to London, each one having a drastically different style. It’s gorgeous to look at and it was fascinating to see how much the animators experimented with creating versions of these parts of the world but made for cars! One of the biggest highlights of this is a hilarious scene with Mater trying to work a Japanese washroom and when Mater is tied up inside of Big Ben Clock Tower. It’s also worth noting how much reflective textures on the cars have improved since the first film. Cars 2 came out six years later and you can really see an improvement. It’s a really dazzling film to watch.
The score is incredible as well. It is composed by Michael Giacchino and it really builds upon the more action-packed moments of the film. Given how the film has such a minimal amount of quiet breaks, that is definitely a huge plus.
Overall, while the story could have been told better and had more focus, but it is still a great, very fun film and I really enjoy watching it. Cars 2 is by no means a bad movie. In fact, it’s better than many of the films that somehow claw their way into theaters. The film has been judged so unfairly and I think it deserves a second look, even despite it’s several flaws.
Film Grade: B+
Pixar Countdown Reviews returns next Friday with a review of Pixar’s Brave.