Movie Review: Cars 2

{Please note: I have an awesome Cars 2 giveaway going on right now! The merchandise is still pretty cool,no matter what I thought about the movie.}

It seems near blasphemy to speak ill of a Disney/Pixar film; after all, they are typically infused with such earnest sentiments and wholehearted fun. Who can argue with that? But after attending the press screening for this weekend’s newest blockbuster hopeful, Cars 2, I have to say: I am not a fan.

BUT I’LL GET TO THAT IN A MINUTE.

First I have to mention the three wonderful things that happen before the film even starts:

1. The “Circle of Life” opening scene of Lion King – in 3D. It is gorgeous – breathtaking, really. I actually got teared up at the beauty of it, and the nostalia, too. The film will release as 3D in theaters for a limited time beginning September 16.

2. The teaser for next year’s Disney/Pixar release, Brave. Goosebumps. It’s misty and magical. I’m really looking forward to this one.

disney pixar brave art

3. Pixar has become known for their entertaining shorts, and the one before Cars 2 does NOT disappoint. “Hawaiian Vacation” brings the gang from Toy Story 3 together for a hilarious story featuring Ken and Barbie. I could watch this over and over!

Pixar short Hawaiian-Vacation

NOW, ON TO THE MOVIE ITSELF…

Cars 2 Poster

A quick synopsis from Pixar:

When star racecar Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) and the incomparable tow truck Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy) head overseas to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix, Mater gets caught up in an intriguing adventure of his own: international espionage!

As I said, I did not care for Cars 2 as a whole, but there were definitely moments I could appreciate. The animation is phenomenal, and the Real 3D only makes it more so. I enjoyed Michael Cain as Finn McMissile, and I thought Emily Mortimer’s Holly Mortimer was plucky and likable. I also liked the various exotic locations in the film, and how animators chose to represent them.

But what the writers chose to do with the story has me confused and quite frankly, very frustrated.

Cars 2 could have just as easily been called Cars with Guns. Or Cars Explode, Like, All Over the Place.

I get that Disney/Pixar wanted to up the ante with Cars 2 – they wanted to ramp things up, bring on the action, create a James Bond experience for the kiddie set.

But is that what the kiddie set really needs?

The first 10 minutes of this movie alone has cars being shot, broken up into pieces after being dropped in the ocean, being crunched into a small square, and blowing up in a fiery inferno. It’s a different kind of “body” count, but I still found it a little disturbing.

I mean, Disney/Pixar has spent a good deal of effort making kids relate to these cars as people. Cars don’t fall in love, have best friends, or learn life lessons through trials. PEOPLE DO. And yet through the anthropomorphising of these characters, they’ve made kids relate to and identify with them.

So I’m not sure why they kill them off like they don’t matter. NOW we’re supposed to say “Oh, they’re just cars!” I don’t get it.

And it just goes ’round and ’round.

Confused identity, peril, escape from peril, identity still confused, here’s more peril, and another close escape. With lots and lots of shooting, chasing, exploding, ramming, and a few “Kill them all!”s and at least one “KILL LIGHTNING MCQUEEN.”

Wrapped up in the confused identity spy caper is a very high-concept story involving big oil and alternative fuel, and a tiny mystery as to the real identity of the movie’s villain. Both will go way over the head of my 3yo Cars fan. And both left me feeling so bored I could hardly care.

The one small part of the Cars 2 story buried deep, deep down that I DID care about was the message of accepting who you are, and accepting others for who they are. It was those few, scattered quiet moments that I liked the most about this movie. But they were too few and far between, and just got lost in the noise.

I’m so disappointed. Five years after the release of the first Cars movie, I was looking forward to reuniting with characters I had learned (over time, granted) to love. But this movie isn’t about character, it’s more like controlled chaos, and it left me feeling…lost.

*Disclosure: I was invited to the press screening in order to review this film. No other compensation was received. All opinions expressed are honest and my own. And trust me, I really don’t like looking like the bad guy here. I wanted to love this movie. I really did.

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  • Jenn

    Stacey. I am not a big fan of the first Cars movie, but my husband and daughter loved it. I am a huge fan of The Lion King, along with with both of my girls. It’s been a special movie over the years for us. I just recently got all teary eyed when watching my granddaughter enjoy the movie. I can not wait for the four of us to experience it together on the big screen.

  • I didn’t like it, either. It was like they just plugged the characters from “Cars” into a totally unrelated plot. It was lacking in so many ways.

  • I waited to read your review until after I saw the movie so I wouldn’t be biased.  We share the same sentiment, though you say it much more eloquently than I ever could.  I took my 4yo and was really bothered that he was getting excited about big guns and lots of shooting.  With all the creative minds behind the Disney/Pixar machine, is this really the best plot they could come up with to incorporate the Cars characters and entertain young children?  I realize they make movies with a dual audience in mind – children watch and so do their caregivers.  But I felt like the movie took a plot aimed at a mature audience (weak, but you know what I mean) and inserted cartoon characters to make it look like a kid film.  Yes, it’s a cartoon, but it’s not really for kids.

  • Terra Heck

    I’ve read lots of reviews about the new Cars 2 movie.  Some hail it as great as the first, but most have the same thing to say as you do.  I might watch it when it comes out on DVD but honestly am not too excited to see it now, or even let my kids watch it.  I have a gut feeling I’ll turn out being really disappointed.