[REVIEW] Cars 2: Not quite a lemon, but worth the ride?

Cars 2 Review: Not a lemon, but worth the ride?

Cars 2 (MPAA Rating: G)
Voice Cast: Larry the Cable Guy,  Owen Wilson, Michael Cain, Emily Mortimer, Eddie Izzard, John Turturro
Directed By: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis

I brought my almost-5-year-old to the theater for the Sunday matinee of this movie, and as luck would have it we meet up with two more almost-5-year-olds from her pre-school class, giving me an instant panel of critics to this Disney/Pixar sequel.  It was interesting witnessing the evolution of their opinions in real time.

The excitement in the beginning was palpable as the youngsters were reintroduced to their favorite characters.  With 3D glasses firmly on their faces, they watched intently as the movie moved from Radiator Springs to the bright lights of Tokyo.  There was something about a spy story that they sort of caught on to, but they were more entertained by Mater’s yokel antics and the “vroom vroom” of the actual races.

Then, about an hour into the movie, the crew grew steadily uninterested in the increasingly complicated plot unraveling on the screen, or the seemingly endless lines they gave Michael Cain to say, or the trippy realization that Mater’s folksy/clueless schtick tended to make people not take him seriously. The kids began to yell quite loudly, “When is this over?” and started bouncing on the movie seats. The glasses had been taken off seemingly long before.  Just as the supposed climax of the movie arrived, with Mater delivering a Columbo-style, who-dun-it soliloquy, the kids had about had enough and demanded a bathroom break.

I looked around to see if ours were the only kids bored with the second half of the movie, and I observed one mom reassuring her kid that the movie was almost over, and another family at their wits end trying to keep their brood from running toward the brightly lit fire exits.

The conclusion is obvious – this two-hour movie is just too long. The simplicity of the original Cars – McQueen’s big city mouse among a town of country mice – was part of the original appeal to a generation of kids and their parents alike. Cars 2 tries too hard to recapture the actual kids who saw the original and have since moved on to the real cars of The Fast & the Furious series, instead of playing to their younger brothers and sisters.

The movie isn’t a total loss, of course. Most of the actors do wonderful jobs (though I felt Wilson might have literally phoned it in), and you just can’t be mad at Larry the Cable Guy’s adorably clueless Mater.  Turturro seemed to channel his Jesus Quintana character from The Big Labowski when voicing the Formula One racer Francesco Bernoulli, and Cain is well, Michael Cain.

The 3D effects are good and made sense, but it’s not enough to keep the kids under 5 focused on what’s happening past hour one, and I even found myself wandering towards the end. If you are a purist and must have absolute quiet for every movie, take a late night showing, because the kids will get restless. If they are your kids, well, at least you did what you promised and they got to see Cars 2 in the theater.  This is one of those parent traps that you will just have the suck up and hand over the cash, though you willl  like it better when your movie club delivers it to your mailbox in blu ray.

Your Daddy Time: Wasted or Worth It? Worth It (barely)!  2.5/5 Stars

The Worth It/Wasted Rating System is for dads who need to know one thing- Is this movie WORTH IT to:

* Pack up the kids, bags, etc and trek to the theater – or
* Find a babysitter so Dad can have a date night – or
* Cash in brownie points with the Mrs. so he can go with his buddies

If it doesn’t fit these simple criteria, the movie gets the WASTED rating, which means – don’t waste the precious time you have, wait for video/cable when you can squeeze it between chores, work and sleep.



4 thoughts on “[REVIEW] Cars 2: Not quite a lemon, but worth the ride?

  1. You said it yourself…the movie was not targeted for kids under 5! The targeted age range was for kids who saw the first movie when it came out, who would now be around 10, and their younger siblings who are over 5. My six year old loved it and would have been very disappointed if it had been aimed at the under 5 crowd, not to mention the kids who were his age when the original hit theatres. I actually liked the first one better myself, but to call Cars 2 a parent trap is way over the top. You can’t expect a movie to be aimed towards the age your kids just happen to be and I’m glad they aimed for older kids too, who at 10 years old have hardly moved on to The Fast and the Furious quite yet.

  2. Hi Scott. Thanks for the comment. I don’t think we disagree too much here. However, a G rating on an animated movie is absolutely targeted to 5-ish folk and up. Pixar did a great job of keeping universal appeal on almost everything else, including Cars 1 and all the Toy Story Movies, so there was no reason to suspect Cars2 would be any different. The point here is Cars 2 does not have the universality people have come to expect of Pixar Films – I mean – look at the list here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Pixar_films , every one without exception can be viewed and enjoyed at all ages. Cars 2 was not such a movie. I think that 10 yr olds may just be the perfect demographic. But Cars2 will not have the lasting mind/heart connection we’ve had with previous films. I know I could have totally been OK if I missed it as an adult, and I can’t say that of any other film by these guys. You can’t win ’em all, Pixar.

  3. You’re quite welcome. My main issue with your review is that you don’t offer your opinion, choosing instead to just tell us what you (and your kids) “know” and not what you “think”. But, you can’t win them all Miguel. 😉

  4. Its safe to assume that all my reviews reflect my opinion on the subject matter. Writing qualifying words like “I think” and “in my opinion” would be redundant. One doesn’t have agree of course, hence this fantastic exchange.

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