Cars 2 (unreviewed)

Xmas TV viewing is often a compromise. This year I’ve just steered clear of most televisual fare, but my husband promised the girls that we would ALL sit down together and watch something that wasn’t Merlin (more on Merlin’s series finale in another post). My family chose Cars 2 (2011) as they are all fans of the original.

Lightening McQueen (Owen Wilson) takes a backseat in this sequel as Tow Mater (Larry The Cable Guy) accidentally becomes an international super-spy working with British Secret Service Agents as they race around the world trying to thwart the mastermind behind…

Oh God – I’m going to stop there, sod the synopsis – are you ever going to see this film? I doubt it… Suffice to say that this film was NOT what I was expecting. Michael Caine (Finn McMissile) and Emily Mortimer (Holly Shiftwell) play cameo car versions of 007 & female sidekick. Unfortunately, there is such a lacklustre note in Caine’s vocal delivery that I kept wondering if he was just strolling through the script, whilst thinking of the new piece of art he could then purchase with his fee. Mortimer was more enthusiastic, but then with more to prove, and presumably less art on her walls, she delivered a note-perfect, super-smart, but less than sexy Bond-esque female. I really missed Paul Newman’s (Doc Hudson) assured, gravelly delivery from the original; sadly death meant that he was unavailable this time round. You can’t buy gravitas; someone tell producers, please.

The film opened well enough with a visually dynamic sequence on an oil rig: no one can animate moving water like Pixar. Thereafter, it played on so many corny, cultural stereotypes as the film’s plot required trips to Tokyo, Italy (which could also have been Monte Carlo?) and finally London. It was curious to see the Pixar reinvention of each location: I must say that London looked particularly clean, which may be wishful thinking prior to he 2012 Olympics. If I were Japanese or Italian I’d be rolling my eyes and asking where the (estimated) $200,000,000 budget went? Presumably not on avoiding crass oversimplifications? But then I forget who the target audience is, and as I’m not included in that group I shouldn’t make any sweeping assumptions about the intentions of the filmmakers.

John Lasseter and Brad Lewis (why are so many Pixarians called Brad – I’m thinking Bird here) allowed the narrative to plod along, despite the excellent craft on screen. Am I a cynic? Perhaps, but I was hoping for more after my Xmas dinner. I want more from Pixar in general: I’ve come to expect more in particular (see below). If this Cars film had been the first in the series, well let’s just say that a second outing for this franchise might never have been. Disappointed? Yes, I was. Having said all that, my family enjoyed it, but I doubt that they will remember it. It doesn’t have any “moments” of true cinematic value. I can recall the lump in my throat when Shrek tells Fiona that she is beautiful, or the moment when Anton Ego tastes Remy’s ratatouille, or particularly when Wall:E’s fingers grasp Eve’s after she kisses him.

Movies for children should have scenes or themes which stay with them. Otherise, what’s the point of making them (the movies, not the children)? Homogeneity and blandness should not be served up by filmmakers. Our kids are being educated through every cultural experience to which they have access; surely it is implicit that any product made with such a high level of expertise should contain elements which positively resonate with its audience? Kids aren’t stupid: I can still remember feeling short-changed when films with great production values failed to delight or stimulate me because of a  weak script or poor exposition. Cinematic spectacle and content must be balanced. Whether you are five or eighty-five you should be challenged, moved, amazed and educated by your interaction with movies. Cars 2 was what I consider to be a mere time-filler: my enthusiastic six year-old nearly fell asleep during it, and that perfectly sums up the calibre of the film.

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