Friday, June 24, 2011

Movie with Abe: Cars 2

Cars 2
Directed by John Lasseter & Brad Lewis
Released June 24, 2011

Today, Pixar releases a feature in early summer for the sixth year in a row. That’s quite a precedent, and this also marks only the second sequel that Pixar has ever attempted. The first, “Toy Story 2,” was a roaring success, and paved the war for a third film in the series, which picked up an Oscar last year. The original “Cars” was popular but not entirely embraced, and the sequel represents a considerable gamble on the part of the pretty much flop-free Pixar. Yet the second “Cars” brings in new ideas, new characters, and new energy to create an experience that it’s inarguably enthralling and pretty damn terrific at that.

In many ways, it’s a typical sequel that builds upon its base and aims for a much grander universe. The first “Cars” film was a simple story of two very different cars coming to terms with their similarities and helping to build back up an ailing town. The sequel is much less focused on the small town of Radiator Springs, and while it does contain a scene or two set at home, this is an international experience. That’s not to say that it betrays the qualities that made the first film so good, but rather that it evolves along with its characters, destined for fame and greatness, just as its hero car racer Lightning McQueen is.

Inserted into “Cars 2,” against the backdrop of an international racing competition, is an entirely new spy plotline, featuring “Harry Brown” costars Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer in much lighter fare as MI-6 agents Finn McMissile and Holley Shiftwell. Both play their parts extremely well and add considerable entertainment to what could be considering a shark-jumping addition to an already heartwarming and competent story. The action that comes with their presence is entirely invigorating and exciting, and occasionally as high-octane as something out of James Bond.

Above all, “Cars” succeeds at smartly knowing what elements of human behavior and culture to incorporate comically into its car characters. John Turturro’s Italian race car Francesco Bernoulli is a perfect instance of this, exhibiting plenty of stereotypical Italian traits with full vigor. This is exactly what makes Pixar films so great, serving simultaneously as a blast for kids and providing plenty of subtler, hilarious references that adults can appreciate. Even Mater’s klutz-like actions that occasionally serve as plot crutches are excusable since this film is so highly enjoyable.


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