Kernel Rating (out of 5):
Length: 113 Minutes
MPAA Rating: G
Age Appropriate for: 3+
By Mary McCarthy, Editor
When a movie is the “IT MOVIE” for your child, you as a parent will watch it countless times. You will know the movie by heart, if for no other reason than that the thing was constantly playing in the background while you snuck in some work time during the precious 117 minute feature length.
The original Cars (2006) was the IT MOVIE for my son (born 2005). We’ve been through several DVDs, and although I initially wasn’t a huge fan, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the sentimental messages about friends, selflessness, and how lame it is that cute American towns on Route 66 were bypassed when highways were built (insert adorable James Taylor song).
Fans of the first Cars movie will wonder how Disney Pixar handled the loss of Paul Newman as the beloved Doc Hudson character. The answer is: they handled it perfectly. The beginning of the film has a tribute to the character and actor. The Piston Cup has been renamed the Doc Hudson Piston Cup, and Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater relive memories in the Doc Hudson Racing Museum that’s now in Radiator Springs. There is no mention of the word ‘death’, just a ‘he would have been proud of you’ thing Tow Mater says to McQueen. Nice job.
Tow Mater was my son’s favorite character in the first movie, so he was happy to find Mater (fabulously voiced by Larry the Cable Guy once again) is the center of the plot in the new film. The story goes that McQueen and Mater are traveling around the world to race in a multi-phase World Grand Prix. Meanwhile, a group of international spy cars (led by the perfectly cast Michael Caine as Finn McMissile) gets the mistaken impression that Tow Mater is a spy.
A subplot about using environmentally friendly fuel vs gasoline exists, and I will say the plot is actually quite complicated for the younger set. It won’t matter to younger kids who don’t understand the nuances of the story, because there’s plenty of action. Also, who isn’t going to love a movie where the Pacer and the Gremlin are the spy car villains?
The screenwriting is solid, and directors John Lasseter and Brad Lewis do a fantastic job of capturing the cultural vibes of France, Japan and Italy. Emily Mortimer is great as the new semi-girlfriend-of-Mater character Holley Shiftwell. True Cars fans will be sad there isn’t more screen time with some of the beloved cars from the original movie, who are relegated in this one to scenes only at the beginning and end of the film. (I missed Sally most, and think given the environmental theme that Fillmore should’ve had a bigger part).
Would it be easy in a film review to whine about Cars 2 ‘not being as good as the first one’? Sure, and I bet lots of film reviewers are doing it. (Example: 3D animation has once again been totally wasted, and used as a tool to make more cash instead of to enhance a film) But why? Why waste words criticizing Owen Wilson when for crying out loud it’s Owen Wilson as an animated race car?!
It is what it is: a fun family summer film, a welcome respite in a mess of schools-out, hot, ‘I’m bored’ days, and I think everyone who sees it will probably enjoy it.
My son’s a little old now for this to be the case, but I am sure many parents will get a lot of work done with a Cars 2 DVD playing in the background someday.