Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cars 2

Whelp as you all know the Pixar streak, one of the finest unbroken stretches of quality in American film history, just got broken. But I come here not bury Pixar (as if) but to praise it. I’m fully confident that Pixar will make great films again (if only because holy shit did you see the trailer for The Brave) and thus it’s worthwhile to take a look at just why and where Cars 2 goes off the rails.

Here’s the thing Cars 2 does look for all the world like a Pierce Bronsan era James Bond movie, enacted totally by anthropomorphic Cars. Though the question of why anyone would want to see that is still assumedly locked somewhere in the depths of John Lassetter’s psyche. After the low key original, this has got to be one of the strangest changes in direction that a sequel has ever taken. It’s as if they made a sequel to Beethtoven and called it Cujo.

The frustrating thing about Cars 2 is the fact that its easy to see the entertaining, if undoutbably strange, film that it easily could have been. No film featuring Michael Caine at his most effortlessly charming, Bruce Campbell, Eddie Izzard, and John Turturro basically giving his G-rated take on The Jesus, is going to be wholly without entertainment value. Cars has some fantastic moments. Take the Japanese montage set to a song choice as obvious as it is perfect, which manages to craft in more ideas, more images, more wit, and more breathtaking design then most animated features cram into their entire runtime.

Yet there is the inescapable fact that when you are watching Cars 2 you are watching a Larry The Cable Guy vehicle. Let me repeat when you are watching Cars 2 you are watching a movie that has been lovingly crafted to give as much exposure to Larry The Cable Guy as humanly possible. Every minute of it precisely calibrated to give you as much Larry The Cable Guy as you could handle. Any time your mind lulls you into believing otherwise and you begin to enjoy the other elements of the film, the bright, lively animation the game supporting cast, the film comes in and reminds you that this the cable guy’s show and recenters everything around him, so he better scream catchphrases at the captive audience. The horrifying fact of Cars 2 is though you could shelve it next to your Pixar films, you could also put it next to your copies of Delta Farce and Witless Protection and you wouldn’t be wrong (also if you somehow owned both Delta Farce and Witless Protection may God have mercy on your soul).

Fair or not this is simply a film you have to look at differently for Pixar having produced it. In another family animated film an annoying side character voiced by an annoying celebrity, being put through the paces of a borderline nonsensical plot could be taken as a given, and allow the audience to focus on the other elements of the film. But this is a Pixar film. By definition they are supposed to be better than that. There is no way around the fact that Cars 2 is a sub-par film. 


Anonymous said...

So...tell us...does Larry the Cable Guy bother you?

While I don't care for him at all, the lowbrow humor in C2 pretty much rolled off of me, because I was braced for it and there was so much else in the movie I did enjoy. I was able to get lost along with my five-year-old nephew in the astounding quality of animation and exciting setpieces (the opening scene is at least a classic of action-movie parodies), and, yeah, the car-centricness of it. And I don't agree that because the movie largely revolves around his character it's a LTCG vehicle. By that argument it's at least as much a Michael Caine vehicle.

I do agree with you that it makes a sharp left turn from the first movie, which I think may not be that inappropriate, since many of the little boys who got hooked on the first movie are at least two or three years older now and ready for something a little more complex.

Cars 2 certainly isn't Pixar's finest moment, but I think it's very much what it intends to be, a fact that most critics either don't seem to agree with or don't want to accept.

Jasper Y. said...

Well, you're right. There was an uncomfortably large amount of Larry the Cable Guy in the movie.

Still though, I couldn't help but enjoy a lot of the film. Pixar as a whole gives it their all, as usual. I think it's perfectly fine that the movie is different from the original. Pixar doesn't seem the type to lazily redo the previous film anyway, even if the alternative is to do something completely insane like this.

What tickles me the most is that it's by far their most violent movie. Since they're machines, I guess one could excuse it, but the sheer amount of mutilation going on is quite bizarre.

So yeah, one of Pixar's worst, but they can only be so bad. They're too competent to be without some merit.

Bryce Wilson said...

@ Anon: Yeah I agree that the movie is what it intends to be. But what it intends to be is a cynical merch grab centered around an unworthy character with some pretty animation thrown in.

I mean I defend Cars because I feel like it's a genuine labor of love for Lassetter, and I did not get that feeling at all from this.

@ Jasper Y.: Yeah it's like I said in the review the animation is gorgeous. I probably could watch that Japan sequence on a loop.

The body count was funny too. I have to admit I was a little taken aback watching Bruce Campbell get tortured to death.

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