Pixar Animation Studios is a studio that I have loved ever since I was little, and to show my intense enthusiasm and love, have always attempted to haul all my friends to every movie release since A Bug’s Life. I was even ballsy enough to apply for Pixar’s undergraduate program, which was met with limited success. Animation studios like DreamWorks and Blue Sky pale in comparison to Pixar in almost anyway (though DreamWorks did produce one of my favorite movies of all time, How To Train Your Dragon), but Pixar’s seemingly permanent position as perhaps the most well known animation studio in the world was not easily achieved. This year, Pixar celebrates their 25th anniversary this year with a Cars 2, with director John Lasseter (Toy Story 1, 2 and Cars) back at the helm.
Pixar may have dug itself into a hole when it began its reputation of making gorgeous animated films that packed great story, tangible emotional value, and appeal to both children and adults. Though these expectation for Pixar are wonderful, it acts as a double-edged sword, having recently caused Cars 2 to have abysmal reviews on RottenTomatoes and overtaking its predecessor, Cars (2006), as the runt of Pixar’s collection of films. I find most upsetting is that most people who have hopped on the Pixar Bandwagon of recent years are completely disillusioned to what makes Pixar so great.
Pixar has thus far released 11 feature-length films, all of which have continuously upheld Pixar’s tradition of great film and storytelling. The original Cars has been the one film that has commonly been singled out for being the most immature of the bunch (or rather, seemingly geared for an inherently young audience). RottenTomatoes gave Cars a decent 74% fresh rating, but it was an evident public letdown with all of its brethren films scoring 91% or above. However, though the original Cars may not pack the emotional wallop as UP (2009) or Toy Story 3 (2010), Cars is an unarguably strong movie. Behind the facade of cars with faces bickering and racing on a racetrack, Pixar took the time and effort to infuse the Cars idea with as much realism as possible. The Route 66 mythology and representation of each car model prove to be respectable homages and representations to their real-life counterparts (and personalities, if they have one). It’s the little details and and research efforts that truly distinguish Pixar from the rest of its competitors.
Cars 2 is ultimately a spy movie with a good dose of race car competition thrown in (to thrilling effect). The sequel finds Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) invited to race in the first ever World Grand Prix. McQueen, though, is reluctant to bring his eager-to-help BFF Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) with him to the racing world, where McQueen’s image, as well as Mater’s, could inherently be frowned upon. As the Grand Prix travels between Japan, Italy, and England, McQueen gets particularly focused on winning the race and beating an arrogant Italian auto called Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro), during which, Mater gets mistaken for a brilliant secret agent and is thus whisked off on a crazy adventure with car gadgets, car chases, and car drama.
Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer join the cast as Finn McMissile and Holly Shiftwell, two British operatives with enough add-ons to that make James Bond’s Ashton Martin look bad. The spy spin on the film is a refreshing style and one that is completely different from the rest of Pixar’s film. It is actually with that mindset that this movie should be viewed at. Cars 2 isn’t Pixar’s greatest film artistically, but it is an enormous mistake to brush the film aside as unworthy. Cars 2‘s goal is to be fun, crazy, and to entertain, which is something that Cars 2 does with flying colors. Though there are some protracted scenes within the two hour running time, many of the film’s limitations originate from the fact that automobiles are inherently harder to animate at the same level as inanimate toys.
A problem with the original Cars was the fact that the animators had very little to work with in terms of coaxing human-like expressions and emotions from the cars. They remedy this in Cars 2 with the addition of hundreds and hundreds of gadgets (as well as a slew of foreign model cars), giving the film a more varied and expansive set of tools to work with in making the film. Cars 2, in addition, avoids the biggest sequel pitfall, which is to merely repeat successful ideas from the previous installments. Pixar, rather than repeating their successful ideas, threw them all out (good and bad) and challenged themselves to make a new bigger and better movie.
The film is ultimately meant to show that Pixar is capable of not binding themselves to what everyone (the audience), is expecting. The studio’s belief is that if they make something they themselves love and enjoy, then everyone else will too (and that philosophy has worked wonders so far). Cars 2 is not a film to be compared to Wall-E (2008) or the Incredibles (2004), it’s a movie that is to be viewed independently and treated like so.
I acknowledge that most everyone has a different taste for movies, and sometimes, the films listed on Top 100 Films of All Time don’t really fit a person’s particular taste. In that vain, Cars 2 may not really be for you. I will say, however, that Cars 2, by no means, is a rotten movie from Pixar. Though I, like most people, am also more excited about movies such as Brave (2012) and Monster University (2013) (Monster’s Inc.’s sprequel (sequel that is a prequel)), Cars 2 is a definite welcome to the bunch and is probably one of the most fun and craziest adventures any Pixar animation has to offer.
Though, however likable, Mater does get on my nerves sometimes with his simpleton views and occasional ignorant opinions.
Note: This post may have been more intense that I intended, and that may be partially due to my fanboy-ism with Pixar, but if you do enjoy films by Pixar, go watch Cars 2 without the expectation of a tear-jerking UP or Toy Story 3 and just have fun.
My good friend richyli sent me a link that made me somewhat sadfaced, but it’s merely a testament that the few true Pixar fans are not wimps.