Pixar is good to us. Pixar provides for us more sustenance for our summer appetite of entertainment.
So how was Cars 2?
Objectively speaking, it is worse than Cars 1 (I’ll talk more on that below). But for me… I liked this one better, and I admit fully that it was for non-rationa, non-objective reasons.
See, when I was a kid (way back when we had to hide from the roaming dinosaurs less they expose our position to the French who would then make us eat stinky cheeses) I loved playing with vehicles and imagining all sort of races and exciting pursuits. Cars, boats, planes – didn’t really matter. And I don’t mean that stupid straight-track-with-2-wide-turns bullshit we call NASCAR. If there wasn’t danger of flipping or explosions, I wasn’t interested. One of my other favorite imaginings (excluding fantasy and dragons) was the secret-agent like deal of hidden and deploying gadgets. My favorite parts of James Bond were always the stuff like book shelves rotating to reveal a computer, or the gun popping out of the hidden sheath.
So when this movie had two hours of planes and boats and zooming cars twisting and turning and dodging while guns pop out of hidden compartments and cables shoot forth… it was like I was 8 years old (or last Tuesday) again and someone had just put one of my play sessions up on the big screen. So obviously I can’t be completely objective on this – how do you judge something that makes you feel young again and reminds you of delightful afternoons spent lost in fantastic worlds?
Well that won’t stop me from trying. At any rate, purely for the nostalgia, I give Cars 2:
The half shell is for having Michael Caine and Bruce Campbell doing voices. It’s that awesome. So parents don’t despair about taking your kids to this.
Unlike the first movie, Mater is the star here. Which I didn’t mind. Lightning McQueen had an adequate character arc in the first movie and I don’t think there was anywhere for him to go in this one that didn’t come off as a repeat of the first film. If Pixar continues to make Cars sequels (and the merchandising says they will), it would be a wise move for each film to focus on another character and give them an individual growth arc. (I’d like #3 to be about the 2 Italian cars.)
Now there are two points I will talk about in detail. (I hesitate to call them spoilers since I think even five year olds will be able to figure out the plot to this film.)
Negative point first. Repeat after me writers: do not let your politics take over your writing. This movie decides to have a ‘message’ about Big Oil. The first and most obvious problem with this is that in the universe of Cars, isn’t oil/gasoline/etc their equivalent of food? So is the movie actually preaching against Big Oil or Big Food? But if it is food, then the villain’s motivations make no sense. It’d be like Doritos enacting a convoluted plan to discredit salads. Then, to make the political point even dumber, there is a line in the movie explicitly mentioning that oil comes from dinosaurs. But… the Cars universe is a world where normal living creatures (except plants) have been replaced by vehicles. Insects are little VW ‘bugs’ with wings. Birds are (I think) WW2 era biplanes. Livestock consist of farming machinery. What are dinosaurs in this world? It can’t be Model Ts, we see one still living. Ancient wheels? Chariots? This one line strains the suspension of disbelief that I agreed to when I walked into the theater. (Seriously, how do these things tie knots?)
Still, I liked a lot the movie demonstrating the principle of the division of knowledge. What is often forgotten in the modern day (especially when some media depicts a genius), is that nobody can know everything (I blame google for creating an illusion of omniscience). It doesn’t matter how high your IQ is, even the dumbest, functioning adult out there will know more about SOME topic than you do (unless you get lucky enough to pick one person who’s specialty matches yours). In this movie, even though the secret agents are smarter and probably know more in general than Mater (if knowledge could be conceivably measured), he knows more about general mechanics than they do. “Don’t be harsh to others, they might know something you need” is a lesson I think we could use more of.