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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Cars 2 (3D)

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3_Chicks_Small Judy Thorburn

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Cars 2 (3D)

Disney's Pixar Animation Studios' follow up to 2006's blockbuster Cars 2 is part action packed car racing adventure, part James Bond style spy caper, and, unfortunately, not up to speed as the original.

What a disappointment, considering Pixar's history of delivering a series of fabulously executed animated movies (Finding Nemo, WALL-E, Up and the Toy Story franchise) for both youngsters and adults alike.

Returning to a world inhabited by talking cars that behave like humans, the sequel directed by John Lasseter (who is also Pixar's head honcho) from a script by Ben Queen, has Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) and his best friend, goofy, buck toothed and beat up tow truck, Mater (Larry, the Cable Guy) traveling overseas to partake in the inaugural World Grand Prix, sponsored by Sir Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard) inventor of a fuel alternative. There, McQueen gets to meet his main competitor and friendly rival in the race to find the world's fastest driver, an Italian Formula 1 car named Francesco Bernoulli (John Tuturro) that is full of himself.

However, this go around, it's not about MacQueen who learned a lesson about humility in the last flick. Wilson's champion race car character takes a backseat to Larry The Cable Guy's Mater who is up front and the central focus. Mistaken for an american undercover spy, Mater unwittingly gets caught up in a mission headed by British Intelligence agent Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and his spy in training, Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) who develops an unlikely attraction to the new recruit and vice versa.

The plot involves uncovering and stopping an evil scheme to sabotage the big race by villainous German scientist Professor Z (Thomas Kretschmann), and his gang of thug “lemons” made up of a pacer, yugo and gremlin, whose orders come from a mysterious, unknown boss.

On the plus side, technically speaking, Pixar's magnificent animation team can do no wrong and they can add this to their resume as another visual stunner. The CGI images they have created are gorgeous including the richly detailed landscapes of Tokyo, the Italian Riviera and London landmarks. As for humor, laugh provoking moments are here and there. The two funniest scenes involve Mater's trip to the bathroom and his mistaking a huge bite of extremely spicy hot wasabi for pistachio ice cream which have hilarious consequences.

On the down side, Cars 2 is filled to the brim with relentless, way too loud, frenetic racing sequences that encompass fiery explosions and crashes and lacks the warmth, heart and emotional connection that audiences come to expect from Pixar offerings.

Back on board among the excellent celebrity voiceover cast are Cheech Marin as Ramone, John Ratzenberger as Mack and Tony Shalhoub as Luigi, but they pretty much stay in the background with little to do. MacQueen's girlfriend Sally (Bonnie Hunt) is shown briefly in the beginning but once her sweetie leaves their homespun town of Radiator Springs, she is out of the picture, at least for this outing.

Kiddies will undoubtably love the eye candy but with a plot too complicated for the very young and a storyline that runs out of gas, Cars 2 doesn't live up to Pixar's high storytelling standards. As a result, in a race to the finish, the emphasis on speed over substance may wind up leaving audiences in the dust. While not a total lemon, Cars 2 isn't the shiniest, top of the line vehicle ever delivered from the Pixar assembly line.

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