Nonstop review: ‘Cars 2’

By Myong Choi
Special to Nonstop

I’m not really a fan of animated films. I know they’re getting much better and appeal to both adults and children, but for some reason, they just don’t speak to me. So it’s ironic that I’ve seen seven of the 12 Pixar feature-length movies, including “Cars 2,” which opens in theaters Friday.

Of course, none of those viewings were totally voluntary. I viewed each of the previous six films either with children or with my girlfriend at the time. Hey, sometimes you have to agree to see “Up” in order to get to watch “Fast and Furious.” But the original “Cars” was not on my previously watched list, so I went into “Cars 2” with a fresh slate.

“Cars 2” is a mishmash of two storylines. Racing car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and his best friend Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) are enjoying some time off in their home town of Radiator Springs when a new race called the Global Grand Prix is announced. The favorite to win the race is an Italian sports car named Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro), and he openly challenges Lightning to defeat him. Lightning accepts the challenge, leading to races in Tokyo, Italy and England. The other story is an homage to James Bond films with a couple of British spy cars — Finn McWhistle (Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) — trying to capture a mysterious villain who’s developed a new deadly weapon. Mater, mistaken for an American spy, inadvertently stumbles into their chase thus leading the British spies to the race locations.

Because of two storylines, I felt like I was watching two different films, with the Grand Prix race story being the much more interesting of the two. The spy plot was totally extraneous and merely a vehicle to allow for additional characters. It was typical sequel-itis — adding characters needlessly to make the sequel bigger than the original. Each time a tedious second rate spy sequence was onscreen, I longed for more of the interaction between Lightning and Francesco. A film only about them and the Grand Prix race would have been much more enjoyable.

The primary reason for my annoyance was the character of Mater, who served as the link between the two storylines. I’m not really familiar with the comedian Larry the Cable Guy, but his act proved immediately tiresome. The “aw shucks” accent got old very fast, and I really have a dislike for stupid characters, especially when they’re in almost every scene. Mater may have been tolerable in small doses of comic relief, but he shouldn’t have been a central character.

But of course this film is made for children and not men my age. So would children enjoy this film? It’s hard to say. There wasn’t much humor, and while the action scenes may wow young eyes, the plot may be just a tad too difficult to follow. The theater I was in was full of children, yet I didn’t hear too many laughs as I did with other children’s films.

I’m sure that “Cars 2” will be a huge hit because it carries the Pixar name and is a sequel to a successful first film, but I don’t think I’ll be in line for a “Cars 3.”