Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cars 2 - a speedy review

I took the movie going wee ones to see Cars 2 on Sunday.  I didn't like it that much.

I love Pixar and the work they do.  They have a history of making movies that are fun to watch.  Fun for the adults and the kids.  It isn't just neat animation, but even more they tell great stories.  They draw you in and don't let you go until they are ready.  And that's fine by me.

Lifted  an example of Pixar doing what it does.

Toy Story -   It is the landmark movie that did more than put Pixar on the Hollywood map; it redefined (rediscovered?) what movies are about. Big gamble, big payday.  Would people accept computer animation instead of classic cels?  Yes.  Because a good story is worth watching.  Not really the founder of the genre, the genre existed but was lost under "The Land Before Time 23 - Because Kids like Dinosaurs and we don't have any original ideas".  I'm glad Pixar re-found quality animated movies. The first one was excellent and unlike usual sequel attempts they kept getting better.

Up! - The first 10 minutes had me sitting there babbling in the theater with my kids wondering what was wrong.  Why is dad crying? Because I now know why the old man is grumpy.

Wall-E - makes me want to go out and do something; it touches my inner spirit of activity.  That or I just sat through a 2 hour movie and need to stretch my legs - either way I'm getting up and marching straight outside to enjoy a beer while sitting on the porch.   Somehow Pixar pulls off a Johnny-5 clone being a believable character that you care about.

Cars was very good for the same reason.  It was a great story which very effectively laid out some tough human feelings (identity - who am I really?) on vehicles.  There was no huge, scary bad guy.  Plenty of layered jokes for kids and adults. 

Cars 2 is not the original Cars.

Cars 2 kept with the jokes and good animation but lost something.  It came off as an easy sequel to me; which isn't what Pixar does.  It was not story driven, it was the Mater show.  There were a few subtle James Bond, name puns, and lemon car jokes; but there wasn't a compelling story.  It felt like a Disney sequel and not a Pixar movie.  A friend told me he enjoyed it because now it had action.  I felt like it had action and jokes but no story.

Pixar had done well for a long time under the Disney umbrella of not cutting the corners.  Pixar wasn't about following formula for box office success, it was about making movies worth making and worth watching.  They took pride in their art and every one of their films was a homerun, until Cars 2.

The movie was okay, just not the usual level of Pixar quality.  I hope it is merely a stumble and not a harbinger of Pixar being absorbed into the Disney machine.  Toy Story 2 and 3 did away with my scepticism that it would just be a mediocre sequel.  It is easy to recycle characters & jokes just for more tickets.  Pixar kept the bar high and each installation was compelling storytelling.  I was expecting the same from Cars 2 and left unimpressed.


  1. We're supposed to all go see this, but no one has said they really like it. I think I'll wait for DVD.

  2. Exactly my thoughts. (And still, possibly, correct.) Spot on, Dan K.

  3. Lighting's self-pride strikes again. Zap! This time striking his best friend where it really hurt. It's a story about how we treat people and about being honest and real. How a person who is backward by the world's standards still makes a big impact- not by being what his best-friend or the secret agents think he should be, but just by being his natural, bluntly honest, goofy loveable self. He seems like a total goofball, but he's very knowledgeable about his specialties- engines, and friendship. Almost made me wish I had some battle scars that told stories about my friendships as well.

    You can probably tell I enjoyed the movie. Not as much as I enjoyed King Fu Panda II(Dreamworks is pretty amazing in my opinion too), but I felt it did have a good story and wasn't all action.

  4. I saw Kung Fu Panda 2 also and enjoyed it. I thought it was a worthy sequel in step with the first (I may write a review over lunch). Watching Toy Story 3 I remember Cabu very worked up, holding his ears and wanting to go home as they are heading into the incinerator. I had to hold him & tell him "it will be okay" when truly, I didn't know. Then I felt such relief as it developed. I was hooked into the movie.

    Cars 2 never had me. I know there was a story, but it was never compelling to me. There is room for a great story around the theme, it just wasn't there for me. I didn't mind the action (although it changes the type of movie it is and how kids see it).