The bigger they are the harder they fall.
That’s the case with Pixar’s latest effort. I guess it was bound to happen. Pixar’s lifetime as a movie studio has been one of the most stellar accomplishments in Hollywood. Year after year they put out soulful, heartfelt movies. They redefined animation, created an entirely new animation medium, and made parents happy to go to the movies with their children. Pixar has given us some memorable moments over the years. They’ve given us innovative, clever movies like The Incredibles, Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Wall-e, Up and Finding Nemo. That’s not even the whole list. Their filmography is any other studio’s wildest dream. With all that success we wondered if they’d ever put out a bad movie. Well folks, they’ve just dropped a stinker.
The original Cars while not as inventive as the rest of the Pixar movies – it was essentially a retelling of Doc Hollywood with googley-eyed automobiles – it still had a spirit about it that made it easy and enjoyable to watch. Now Pixar is putting out a sequel to Cars simply named Cars 2. If it had a subtitle it would have been called Cars 2: The Mater Show.
Make no mistake about it. The previews for Cars 2 depict a high-octane Cars movie with plenty of explosions and secret agents. That’s not what this movie is really about. It’s 90 minutes of Larry the Cable Guy standup comedy. Lightning McQueen takes a backseat here as Mater oafs around the world getting into not-so-hilarious shenanigans.
McQueen is invited to race in the first World Grand Prix where they’re unveiling a new kind of alternative fuel. He brings Mater along to keep him company. After a couple mix-ups Mater becomes mistaken as a secret agent and becomes involved with what I suspect is the James Bond of automobiles. After the case of mistaken identity takes place you’re in for another lame movie where a loud, obnoxious American embarrasses himself abroad. Mater eats a mouthful of wasabi in Japan and pronounces Italian “eye-talian.” Yes, it’s all so hilarious, only it isn’t. It’s drab and depressing. Cars 2 feels like a Disney Channel special for Cars that they whipped together in their spare time.
Sure the animation is glorious. It’s probably the prettiest 3D I’ve seen, even though I’m not a big fan of the technology. It sure looks good though, but that’s where the good times end. This isn’t a case where you can say, “Well, yeah it wasn’t good, but Pixar’s worst is better than everyone else’s best.” On the contrary, Cars 2 is a dismal film on all fronts. It lacks the subtle cleverness that every other Pixar film has in droves. It feels haphazardly put together and poorly executed. It’s almost impossible to imagine that famed Pixar director John Lassater directed this. Finally, its not-so-subtle jab at big oil seems forced and ludicrous.
You don’t have to take my word for it though. A better critique of the movie was given by the children sitting in the screening I was in. Most of them sat there bored. Others wandered the aisles trying to find something else to occupy their time. Laughs were few and far between for the parents in the crowd. After the movie ended there was an awkward pause and then a tepid applause. Not so much for the movie, but for the effort Pixar has put in up until now. I haven’t lost faith in the studio, but this is a major setback. Even Pixar is fallible.