Cars 2: Ka-Ciao! (2011)

Posted: June 25, 2011 in Adventure, Animated, Comedy

Lightning McQueen, 4-time Piston Cup champion, returns to Radiator Springs after a long season to reconnect with some old friends and take a breather before the next exciting competition. Not long after his return, there is an announcement from wealthy Sir Miles Axelrod about a new energy source and a World Grand Prix to showcase his new product. A series of hilarious events leads to Lightning taking the challenge and going up against the best the world has to offer, including the suave but significantly pompous Francesco Bernoulli. With his best friend Mater and his crew by his side, Lightning travels to Tokyo, Porto Corso and London in a series of races to prove he truly is the best race car ever. Meanwhile, a sinister plot is brewing and a couple of British spy cars get more than they bargained for when Mater gets tangled up in their attempt to stop an unknown car seeking to bring down the new fuel source, Allinol.

Starring: Owen Wilson (Lightning McQueen), Larry the Cable Guy (Tow Mater), Michael Caine (Finn McMissile), Emily Mortimer (Holley Shiftwell), Eddie Izzard (Sir Miles Axelrod), John Turturro (Francesco Bernoulli), Brent Musburger (Brent Mustangburger), Joe Mantegna (Grem), Thomas Kretschmann (Professor Z), Peter Jacobson (Acer), Bonnie Hunt (Sally)

Many of the characters from the first movie still make a significant appearance in this sequel set in multiple locations around the globe. While Lightning, voiced by Owen Wilson, is still a central character and the main race car of focus in the World Grand Prix, there is significantly more attention paid to his sidekick, Mater, who is voiced by Larry the Cable Guy. Larry continues to give Mater his stereotypical unsophisticated persona while allowing for the contradiction with the vast amount of intelligence Mater divulges about makes and models of cars. The antics and comedy guided by Larry’s voice balance out the more smooth-talking and determined presence supported by Wilson. At times, the focus on Mater really seems more like an extension of Larry’s stand-up comedy and less like the strong writing supplied to the other Pixar films. Added to the cast are a couple of spy cars brought to life by Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer. Caine always gives a great performance in each of his films while the lesser known Mortimer gives a younger flair to balance Caine’s aged but wiser presence.

John Lasseter and Brad Lewis reenter the world of Cars with this sequel set on expanding the racing world beyond the traditional American-style NASCAR races. If you are expecting a simple story of two friends set on exploring the true world of racing, this goes a bit more complex. The “G” rating seems to miss the significance of the references hidden within the movie, such as the few moments to Pixar treasures (“Gastows” in Paris) and discussions about cars), and the weaving together of two separate stories, Lightning entering the World Grand Prix and Mater entering the world of international espionage. This is all covered with an additional element of the differences between Lightning and Mater that prove to complicate their friendship outside of Radiator Springs. The combination of storylines is done very well and the visual representation of some of the world’s significant locales and action sequences are stunning (as would be expected). The end message about friendship gives the movie a happy life lesson good for the kids who may get lost in all of the spy talk. It can be easy to get overwhelmed by Mater becoming the main character and his representation as the American stereotype to the rest of the world but that contrast between his personality and the rest of the cast provides for a little extra humor and deeper themes.

Cars 2 is a solid sequel that does not disappoint as Pixar’s next big release. While this is a kid’s film, Pixar has also proven that they can make more complex stories that allow for the older movie-goers to dive into the movie as well, though this is a little less complex than the emotional intensity of Toy Story 3 or the philosophical nature of Wall-E. This is much more of a simply spy movie meets racing flick.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5

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