Cars 2 Review: Mater Takes Center Stage

My review is spoiler free, so feel comfortable reading it.

I have to admit up front, I really didn’t have high hopes for Cars 2 going in. I just didn’t think that it was a film that would speak to me. When details emerged that it would feature a race around the world and spy elements, I was a bit more excited, but I wondered to myself if the film would have any heart? That was the aspect that I liked best about the original Cars. I can honestly say that Cars 2 delivers plenty of action, some laughs and a bit of heart too, but did the film speak to me? Unfortunately, no…

Some critics/fans have said that it’s OK if Cars 2 isn’t an artistic endeavor like WALL-E, Up or Ratatouille. Others will point out that it’s a big summer movie designed to deliver non-stop action, lots of explosions and laughs. Those are fair points and I try and review all films based on their own individual merits and with the following criteria. Was I entertained? Did the film surprise me? Did I laugh? (if it’s comedy). Did the film move me in some way? Cars 2 is designed to be thrilling, funny and ultimately have a strong message around friendship. I think it succeeds in a few of those areas.

First off, the animation, music and voice acting are spectacular. Michael Giacchino’s score is a lot of fun. The production design (Harley Jessup), lighting (Sharon Calahan) and camera work (Jeremy Lasky) are gorgeous. Make no mistake, this film looks staggeringly beautiful. I really enjoyed the two new characters, Finn McMissile and Holly Shiftwell. They were both a breath of fresh air. While most of the radiator springs crew aren’t featured too much here, I did think that the homage to Doc Hudson was fitting and well done.

Some of the action set pieces are amazing and very inventive. The ultimate message around friendship and being yourself worked pretty well. I also loved the look of the end credits sequence. I won’t spoil anything for you, but there’s plenty of hidden gags and fun things to discover during the sequence (and throughout the whole film).

On the flip side, the story just didn’t grab me. I feel Mater works better as a secondary character and here he’s thrust into the spotlight as the protagonist and it’s really his character that is required to keep the plot moving. I also didn’t get a sense of real danger and never worried about the safety of our main characters and the resolution of the plot. Some of the jokes worked, while others fell pretty flat. I understand that I’m not the target audience, but this isn’t a Pixar film that works that well on multiple levels for kids and adults. Ultimately, I felt that the film is an extended Mater Tall Tales and that was one of my biggest fears realized. It’s just hard to sustain that pace and tone for nearly two hours.

In conclusion, although I think the results are a mixed bag, I do recommend that you go see Cars 2. There’s plenty of good things here, I just don’t expect the film to be everyone’s cup of tea. In addition, the teaser for Brave and the Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation short alone are worth the price of admission.


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17 Responses to Cars 2 Review: Mater Takes Center Stage

  1. William Jardine says:

    Sounds okayish… I’m not expecting anything fantastic anyway…

  2. Anonymous says:

    I haven’t seen cars 2 yet. So…by reading the reviews,i guess its hard for cars 2 to grab a golden statue this year. 

  3. Jstrawn says:

    Like many people, I did not like the first Cars movie all that much when it came out. But it’s really grown on me over the years on DVD and I’ve virtually fallen in love with that world and its inhabitants now. As for Cars 2, I’m just looking forward to a fun spy movie with some stunning glimpses of the entire Cars world, and I’m sure it will deliver both. As far as that 52% (and falling) RT-rating. It’s really meaningless. After all, these are essentially the same folks who ultimately rated Pixar’s most trite and pedantic film ever, ‘Finding Nemo’ at 98%. If prefer your entertainment peppered with overstated morality lessons, go see Wall-E again. Or perhaps Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

  4. Jstrawn says:

    Oh… and by ‘you’ I mean people in general not YOU specifically.

  5. “Ultimately, I felt that the film is an extended Mater Tall Tales and that was one of my biggest fears realized.”


  6. ate says:

    Fantastic review IMO.

    No bias, reviewing it for what it is.

    I feared that being a Pixar dedicated blog you might go the way of Upcoming Pixar, which is really quite sorrowful to look at now. Selective posting and etc.

    Mater is a terrible character IMO and having him as protagonist doesn’t sit well with me.

    Although I personally didn’t think Cars was all-that on the first go-around, and I have only actually watched it once, in my mind it does hold up really well and I nearly watched it twice in a row.

    So it is really more in vein with the Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles trio which are just completely rock-solid films. Then I loved both Ratatouille and Toy Story 3. IMO Wall-E and Up were great the first few times but they are actually not as solid and even as Cars, Up in particular.

    Brave looks amazing though. Can’t wait for that.

  7. Anonymous says:

    That sounds like a very fair review, Greg. I’ll chime in after seeing it this weekend. My first impression of Cars 2 after hearing it announced was that it was going to be a marketing bonanza for Disney (that certainly hasn’t changed) and that this is one of Lassiter’s “guilty pleasures.” As he’s a character in this film, that hasn’t changed either. It will score huge in the target market and for the rest of us, we’ll take the best and leave the rest.

  8. Matt says:

    I’m more curious about Brave teaser. What was it like?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Ate. My goal is judge each film on its own merits. Although it’s hard not to compare, each filmgoing experience deserves an unbiased reaction. Also, while I love Pixar for it’s film, creativity and originality, I’m not here to LOVE everything they do. I’ve got to be honest to myself and the readers of the site. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, right?

    thanks for your comments and thanks for being a reader of the site, I really appreciate it.

    I don’t make money with this endeavor (in fact, it costs me money to run the site). I do it for the love and for the people who read it. So your comments keep me motivated and going forward.

    thanks again

    Greg Mariotti
    Pixar Talk – A blog dedicated to all things Pixar

  10. Anonymous says:

    I don’t want to spoil the teaser for you. It’s quick..but it’s beautiful and it features a bear….and a bow……
    Greg Mariotti
    Pixar Talk – A blog dedicated to all things Pixar

  11. Great review. I’m gonna watch it anyways, even a “bad” Pixar movie is still fun to watch, right? But one question I have, is it worth seeing it in 3D? I’m thinking about seeing it in 2D, because Toy Story 3 barely even used it and I think Pixar is just doing it because every animation is in 3D now…

  12. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think so. I haven’t seen a 3D film worth seeing yet except Avatar..
    Greg Mariotti
    Pixar Talk – A blog dedicated to all things Pixar

  13. Anonymous says:

    Roger Ebert gave it 3 1/2 stars. If interested, here’s the link to his review. It contains plot details if you wish to wait until after you see it.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Cool. I’m a big Ebert fan.

  15. Garrett says:

    I really appreciate your honesty. Just because you have a Pixar blog doesn’t not mean you have to love everything Pixar does. I personally love Pixar as well, but I really really dislike The Incredibles. Just because I love Pixar it doesn’t blind me to how much I can’t stand that movie and the same will go for Cars 2, I’m sure. It bothers me so much when I look at a site like The Pixar Blog and that guy Mike who writes there and just praises everything Pixar-related, including Cars 2. It comes off as really pathetic and undiscerning.

  16. Mater stole the first cars movie and they realized that the
    fan base children loved him more than lightning.

  17. Matt says:

    Thanks, Greg!

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