At last, the wait is over. ‘Cars 2’, the highly anticipated sequel to the Disney Pixar hit ‘Cars’ now roars on to the streets with a 2D Region free UK Blu-ray release. I say ‘highly anticipated’ and by that I mean by most small boys under the age of 10 as well as any male of any age with an interest in four wheeled powered vehicles. The original ‘Cars’ introduced us to the characters of Radiator Springs as well as Lightning McQueen, the shiny red race car, who discovered that friends were the most important thing in his life.
So moving forward a few years, the producers had to come up with a way to give us more - but to also keep it fresh they had to make it different. This time around, it’s not so much Lightning McQueen’s movie as his good ole buddy Mater, the tow truck – voiced by Larry the Cable Guy. In between the two movies Paul Newman, who voiced old time racer Doc Hudson in the first film, shuffled off this mortal coil. Instead of re-voicing him with a lesser artiste, directors John Lasseter and Brad Lewis referred to the character in the past tense and a trophy was named in his honour – in all its shiny gold glory.
On this road trip, the story is moved up a notch as Mater becomes unwittingly involved in the Spy world. We’re introduced to a character called Finn McMissile, voiced by Sir Michael Caine (pity it wasn’t Sean Connery), who looks uncannily like an Aston Martin DB5 that is absolutely loaded with gadgets. We first see him approaching some oil platforms by sea and pretty soon, he’s ducking and diving for his life. While taking part in the World Grand Prix, Mater is mistaken for a Spy pretending to be an idiot and is soon a target for the Bad Guys who believe him to possess a device they want more than anything.
Now here’s where the story starts to get complicated. A green fuel called Allinol has been invented by Sir Miles Axelrod, who sounds suspiciously like Eddie Izzard, and it seems that a really Bad Guy, Professor Z (Thomas Kretschmann) - complete with monocle - wants to discredit the fuel by causing cars that use it to blow their engines while racing. Naturally, a bit of sabotage involving a heat emitting ray will help them in their task. There’s a bit of double dealing, double agent type stuff before the end that I doubt most younger kids will get, but there’s plenty of action to hold their interest just in case. Along to supply the ‘love interest’ is Holly Shiftwell (voiced by Emily Mortimer) who keeps Mater on his toes and involved in the Spy plot.
At the time of its cinema release, some critics panned it as not being as good as the first movie. Some even claimed it to be violent but it makes you wonder if those delicate flowers ever saw a ‘Tom & Jerry’ cartoon while they were growing up. Whatever, it seems to me that the critics had decided that they’d built Pixar up so it was now time to attempt to knock them down. Well, it just goes to show how much they know, for most kids loved ‘Cars 2’ just as much as the first outing – although some said they missed Lightning McQueen not being so involved in the storyline as he’d become almost a legend in School playgrounds.
The World Grand Prix races look great as the story ping pongs its way around the globe, culminating in an action packed London travelogue finale. The CGI animation is absolutely beautiful and quite breathtaking in places, such as when the film moves to Japan with its neon signage. There’s a very funny homage to automated Japanese toilets that anyone who has visited the country will recognise for what it is. The cars all look so very shiny too, with every highlight on their paintwork looking like the work of someone who has spent hours buffing up with resin polish.
Mater becomes even more likeable, with his homespun charm making him look like a real fish out of water in his new posh surroundings. Lovers of extremely hot, nippy food and particularly Wasabi will understand Mater’s reaction to what he believes to be Pistachio flavour ice cream, when he asks for a big dollop on his plate rather than the pea sized blob being offered.
Whether you’re a kid or whether the kid inside you is still alive, ‘Cars 2’ is still a very entertaining and enjoyable piece to top drawer animation – despite anything the critics might say. Okay, so it might not be quite as involving or emotional as ‘Up’ or ‘Toy Story 3’, but it’s good in its own way. I can think of far worse ways of spending an hour and three quarters. When you stop enjoying this kind of film, it means the kid inside you has passed away – and then there’s no point in carrying on. As far as I’m concerned, long live the kid and ‘Cars’!
In one of the accompanying short films, ‘Air Mater’, we’re given a very strong hint and wink to the camera that there’s a spin off film in development that takes us into the world of planes. It’s always good to have something to look forward to. In the mean time, zip up your racing overalls and take ‘Cars 2’ for a spin.
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