Reel Rating: 4 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: G
Released in Theaters: June 24, 2011 (2D, 3D and IMAX 3D)
Genre: Family, Comedy, Animated, Sequel
Runtime: 112 minutes
Directed by: John Lasseter
Cast: Larry the Cable Guy, Owen Wilson, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Eddie Izzard, John Turturro, Tony Shalhoub, Jeff Garlin, Jeff Gordon
Synopsis: Star racecar Lightning McQueen and his pal Mater head to Europe to compete in the World Grand Prix race. But the road to the championship becomes rocky when Mater gets caught up in an intriguing adventure of his own: international espionage.
Sex/Nudity: Mater flirts with Holley and keeps mentioning their first date. Female cars (groupies!) swirl around the famous racecars. Lightning refers to Sally as his girl.
Violence/Gore: Somewhat violent for a G-rated movie. Professor Z and his henchmen use guns and weapons, chase cars until they crash, and even kill a couple of cars – one by torturing him with a secret weapon and the other with a compactor. There are several high-speed chases, including one where a car leaps into the ocean. Several cars are dented and put in peril, once with a bomb set to detonate in minutes.
Profanity: Mild insults, including “idiot” and “stupid fool.”
Drugs/Alcohol: Cars drink “cocktails” at a fancy party.
Which Kids Will Like It? Kids 6 and older who like Pixar movies, lots of fast action, and/or the first Cars movie.
Will Parents Like It? Yes, despite the violence, it’s a good story about friendship that also includes an eco-message about alternative fuel.
Review: I loved the first Cars movie, but must admit, parts of the storyline dragged a teensy bit in the sleepy town of Radiator Springs. But Cars 2 takes the original concept and adds a fun spy caper into the mix. The result is a cute story with the characters we all know and love, but kicked up a notch with high-speed chases, suspenseful moments, and high-tech gadgets.
The story begins with Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) taking a much-needed break in Radiator Springs with his pals Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), Sally (Bonnie Hunt), Ramone (Cheech Marin) and the rest. But when egotistical Italian Formula One racecar Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro) issues a challenge, Lightning agrees to join the World Grand Prix taking place in Japan, Italy and England.
The purpose of the race is to show the world that alternative bio-fuel works just as well as regular gasoline. Ok, so that particular storyline might go over the heads of little ones, but they’ll love the fast-paced action when Mater accidentally finds himself smack in the middle of a spy caper led by British intelligence agent Finn McMissile (Michael Caine – perfect casting!) and his assistant Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer).
Mater has to act fast, because his pal Lightning could be the next target if he doesn’t help stop the masterminds behind the evil plot, headed up (or so we’re led to believe) by Professor Zundapp (Thomas Kretschmann). A sub-plot involves a rift between the friends, when Lightning gets embarrassed by Mater’s down-home personality among the high-profile racecars. The message for kids (and adults, for that matter): friends should stand by each other and accept them for who they are.
One thing I love about Pixar films – besides the gorgeous animation, spot-on voice casting, and crisp action sequences – is the little details and inside jokes. For example, Finn McMissile is a stylized Aston Martin DB5, James Bond’s trademark ride. Eddie Izzard’s character is named Miles Axlerod, taken from one of the comedian’s stand-up routines about the invention of the wheel and the axle.
The sports announcers at the racetrack include Brent Mustangburger (Brent Musburger) and David Hobbscap (David Hobbs), and real racecar drivers Jeff Gordon (Jeff Gorvette) and Darrell Waltrip (Darrell Cartrip) also make an appearance.
The Queen (Vanessa Redgrave) and Prince Wheeliam attend a race, and other animated characters include boats, planes, and a double-decker bus named Topper Deckington III.
There are dozens of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it details: McQueen’s number is 95 (1995 is the year ‘Toy Story’ was released) and his “Lightyear” tires are a reference to Buzz Lightyear. Mater’s license plate is A113, which is the CalArts classroom shared by John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Pete Docter and Andrew Stanton. That number appears in every Pixar film.
I wouldn’t put Cars 2 in the same league as Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, or Toy Story, partly because the alternative fuel storyline is a little complicated (I had to even stop and piece it together a couple times), but it’s still a really fun movie with good takeaways for both kids and adults. There’s also a sweet homage to Paul Newman, who played Doc Hudson, Lightning’s mentor, in the original Cars movie.
Oh, and make sure you’re there at the beginning of the movie to watch the cute short called Toy Story: Hawaiian Vacation, which reunites our toy box pals.
Jane Boursaw is a family entertainment writer specializing in movies and TV. Syndicate her family movie & TV reviews in your publication; visit her at Reel Life With Jane; follow her on Twitter; become a friend on Facebook; email email@example.com.