The best part, by far, was the Toy Story short at the beginning. I feel a little bad saying that I hated this movie, because I know it’s a very popular franchise, aimed at kids, with some sort of positive moral. I want to support Hollywood’s efforts to continue producing family-friendly fare. But I don’t think that has to be done at the expense of good storytelling. Pixar movies are usually all-around high quality, but this time it feels like they should have taken the script in for a tune-up or two before racing into theaters.
The original Cars movie worked a little better as a car-populated universe because they were confined to normal car settings; racetracks, highways, gas stations, car shops. The second movie gets global and introduces a series of spy cars, equipped with all sorts of gadgets to help conduct their spy business. It just feels a little ridiculous. I mean, James Bond has an awesome car. But he doesn’t drive it all the time. It’s not very intuitive to lower a vehicle on four cables into a warehouse to spy on the cars below, and then have to drive yourself back across the cables, or drive up a wall with magnetic wheels, or drive it over roofs. I’m sure kids won’t be bothered by it, and it’s probably not any more unrealistic than a talking car to begin with, but to me it felt like the story was stretching too far beyond the natural boundaries of such a universe. I rolled my eyes so much I was nearly dizzy.
Much of the eye-rolling came courtesy of one Tow Mater, who is certainly the central figure of this sequel. If your kid is a Lightning McQueen fan, they may be disappointed by how little screen time he gets. Mater demonstrates what a well-meaning idiot he is over and over and over again. McQueen starts out being embarrassed by him, but brings him along on his overseas tour, where he is really embarrassed, then Mater messes up McQueen’s race. Next, Mater gets caught up with the spies and is bumbling his way across Europe. Then he finds out everyone sees him as an idiot, and has flashbacks to all the bumbling idiot episodes in case we forgot what we just saw not forty five minutes ago. We get it! He’s an idiot. Personally, I don’t find ignorance that hilarious.
A lot of the dialogue feels very poorly set up. It’s like one person wrote the important speeches, when characters fight or little lessons are preached, and somebody else took their work and said, okay, let’s stick that one there, and this one here. They don’t flow well.
The primary theme is about friendship, (although I think really the primary theme was about having a Cars sequel.) After disowning his friend, McQueen receives the following advice from some Italian cars:
“It’s okay to fight. Everybody fights now and then, but you’d better make up fast. No fight is more important than friendship…He who find a friend, find a treasure.”
That’s a pretty simplistic statement, that no fight is more important than friendship, but it is a good message for children. The Bible tells us not to let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:26), it says to settle disputes quickly and as a priority over offering sacrifices (Matthew 5:23-26). It says that we should live peacefully with everyone, if possible (Romans 12:18). But it’s not always possible. And sometimes maintaining our convictions, or refusing to compromise God’s mandates, might be more important than staying “friends” with somebody. Jesus promised that if we live as he has shown us, we’ll have some haters, (John 15:18-25). That’s pretty complicated, and doesn’t fit into a nice kid-friendly platitude. The Cars 2 message isn’t bad, it just isn’t a good substitute for Sunday School.
The secondary message to this movie is, Big Oil is bad, alternative fuels are the obvious solution, and cars with inefficient gas mileage and unreliable parts are “losers.” That last part, in a human-populated world, might be just a statement about energy efficiency, but remember, in this universe, the cars are people. So it is essentially saying, if you came with faulty parts, you’re a loser. Haha, why didn’t you pick a better factory to be manufactured in, loser! (Or are the cars “born”? It isn’t really explained). They’re the bad guys, so it’s easy to write them off, but this subtle message is not a healthy one. It encourages mocking the misfortune of others, and doesn’t suggest that people can change and improve themselves. One character haughtily states, “Once Big Oil, always Big Oil,” justifying a mistrust in a car that had purportedly switched to green fuel. Good grief, even Twilight features vampires that strive against their human-eating nature to better themselves. Come on, Cars 2, you’re getting morally out-done by a hormonal teen romance franchise!
Verdict: It’s fine. Not great, not terrible. The man sitting behind me guffawed loudly every ninety seconds or so, so apparently some adults will thoroughly enjoy it. But not me. If I had kids, I would rather wait for this to come out on DVD and let them watch it while I get other things done, because it was so tedious for me to sit through in the theater. I might issue this film a citation for driving below the minimum
speed entertainment limit.