Cars 2

Cars 2

*1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

At some stage in childhood, many of us go through a phase of being fixated on cars - especially fast ones. Some never grow out of it. Given that, a Pixar animation in which all the characters are cars must have seemed like a great idea. No doubt its creators were confused when the first one proved to be their least successful project. Unfortunately, this sequel has even less mileage.

The action this time focuses on Mater (voiced by comic Larry the Cable Guy), a tow truck who is the best friend of race car hero Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson). When Lightning begins preparations for a big race with flashy Italian sports car Francesco (John Turturro), Mater is thrilled to be invited to accompany him. But it's difficult for the hick truck to avoid embarrassing himself. Meanwhile, a plot is underway to sabotage the grand prix in order to give green fuel a bad name. British secret agents Finn (Michael Caine) and Holly (Emily Mortimer) aim to save the day, and a case of mistaken identity leads to Mater getting caught up in their plans.

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A plot like this ought at the very least to provide ample opportunities for action. It's more 21st century than vintage Seventies-style grand prix stuff, though. The 3D animated stunts are uninspired and crashes never result in much of a bang. Oddly, Pixar don't seem to have many fresh ideas for wringing humour out of their what-if-we-were-all-cars idea, as a result of which it feels as if it has been awkwardly sandwiched together with the plot from another film. The spy angle has its moments, with Caine clearly relishing his role and Mortimer surprisingly charismatic despite the limitations of hers, but the character of Mater is so poorly developed that the one-note Cable Guy has nowhere to run with it. As a result it stalls before it gets out of third gear.

Car geeks may find something to amuse them here - there are certainly plenty of in-jokes, though I'm told by the experts that some of them get the facts wrong. Most grown-ups, however, will be bored before half an hour has passed. Worse, so will many kids. Aspects of the storytelling, based on puns and references that will be missed by most people under 30, can make things confusing for them, whilst in other places the narrative is so thin that anyone can spot the holes. There was a distinct lack of enthusiasm from those in the audience with me.

If you or your child are car crazy, or if your child will watch anything as long as it's animated, Cars 2 might be a passable way to spend an afternoon. By most standards, however, it's the pits.

Reviewed on: 18 Jul 2011
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Can the motoring heroes foil a plot to scupper the grand prix?
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Director: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis

Writer: Ben Queen, John Lasseter, Brad Lewis, Dan Fogelman

Starring: Larry the Cable Guy, Owen Wilson, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Eddie Izzard, John Turturro,

Year: 2011

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US

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