At this time in their illustrious careers as animators and storytellers, Pixar Studios are by no means strangers to the connotations of success. In fact, pretty much singlehandedly shifting the mainstream public’s attention from hand-drawn animation to digital 3D during the late 90’s, the studio is responsible not just for a whole mainstream movement in film, but also for providing audiences with the pinnacle of those very movies every summer. Eventually however, even the mighty must fall, and despite the initial disappointment of 2006’s predecessor, the studio have went ahead and made this year’s focus that of the same crazy, zany world of Cars—something unexpected, sure, but not entirely unquestioned.
Upon viewing Cars 2 however, you see clearly why. While far off from being something of a disaster, this project from director John Lassater (the man behind the first movie, and also some of the studio’s better works) is nevertheless a true successor to the original in that it too fails to meet the high expectations usually derived from the Pixar name, and plods along seemingly out primarily to please itself. Much like Cars, but to a larger extent here, Cars 2 comes across as being overly indulgent in all the wrong areas—it’s a movie which can be funny, but only sporadically and seemingly by happenstance; it’s s a plaything of Lasster’s that never truly reaches beyond the screen and grabs you; but worst of all is that it’s routinely dumb—something that Pixar with intelligent movies such as WALL-E and the touching tales of Finding Nemo and UP! tend to stray away from.
Nevertheless, Cars 2 feels more like an upper-tier episode of, say, Handy Manny mixed with iCarly. There are fart jokes and oil jokes, and an abundance of contrived character conflicts and Learning From Your Vanity moral taglines—it’s the kind of thing that will please the younger audience, but hey, who the hell is going to deny enjoying Toy Story or The Incredibles, even at the ripe old age of 80? And I guess, that’s where the problem lies; there’s a split here that is very rarely present in the studio’s work—something that lesser companies fall prey to every year for the sake that being cookie-cutter straight and safe is far easier to back as less of a risk than say, the first half-hour of WALL-E which has no dialogue. So in saying that, if by some leap of logic, you’re reading this and happen to still be able to count your years with your 10 stubby digits, by all means stop; you’ll enjoy this regardless.
For everyone else however, Cars 2 will no doubt disappoint. Partly because of its unapologetic focus on a central character who is thick as pudding (which would be fine, if it didn’t infect the rest of the mind-numbingly simplistic plot and character development), but mostly because the writing itself is entirely disengaging and disconnected from any semblance of emotion or intelligence. Taking at least half the movie’s meagre runtime to finally provide some back-story to the antagonist plot against our returning heroes Lightning McQueen and Mater, the movie simply feels uninvolving, boring and even just unfunny. To it’s credit, the voice acting is top quality as per, as are the visuals, but such consolations just don’t cut it when this kind of lazy writing drives the cogs underneath. Kids will still love it, sure, but don’t expect to find yourself buying the DVD for yourself under the guise of “it’s for the kids.” This time, despite that Pixar name on the cover, it will be for the kids.