Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cars 2 Review

Five years after the release of "Cars," the warm and fuzzy fleet is back, but this time, with some notable high octane additions in "Cars 2."

Not only are the cars cooler, the story line is too. Conceptualized by John Lasseter (co-founder of Pixar) and directed by Brad Lewis and Dan Fogelman, the crew clearly made it their mission to switch this sequel to the 2006 original into high gear. What they've come up with is a new, upgraded model they are banking on to be a big winner.

The story is actually quite complex for young kids, but allows for more action and hijinks among the automobiles we've come to love. Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) returns as the speedy dirt racer with a heart of gold and by his side is his faithful sidekick, Mater (Larry The Cable Guy), a beat-up old tow truck. Back home in Radiator Springs after the racing season is over Lightning is looking forward to some down time and being able to catch up with his "girlfriend," a cute little Carrera named Sally (Bonnie Hunt). Things take a turn at the drive-in, when he is egged into competing in the World Grand Prix by slick, open-wheeled racer Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro).

With Mater and his pit crew in tow, Lightning races to the finish, traversing the globe as he does so, with meets in Japan, Porto Corso, Italy, and a culminating race to the end in England, where fittingly the "Queen" (voiced by who else but the very regal Vanessa Redgrave) and her grandson are in attendance, in an obvious tip of the hat to the recent royal wedding.

While Lightning revs up his engine, Mater rolls his way into the center of a Bond-like tale of espionage and intrigue involving an oily cartel of jalopies looking to put a cork in attempts to promote alternative fuel and hybrids. On to the scene drives up a debonair 007-like Aston Martin and international spy named Finn McMissile (Michael Caine), who together with agent Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer), enlists the help of Mater, who they believe is an undercover operative with a brilliant cover. Add into the mix a Land Rover (Eddie Izzard) with ulterior motives for his Allinol fuel, a mad Professor, a host of vintage vehicles any auto-show would be proud of and it's a lot to take in for little kids, but entertaining enough to keep them and their parents gleefully along for the ride.

Great detail is taken into bring the 3-D imagery to life and the setting and cultural tips of the hat are magnificent. Geisha girl cars, for example, welcome Tow Mater to a roll stop where he overdoses on free wasabi, much to the hilarity of the audience and a pit stop by Mater at an Asian bathroom will leave you crying with laughter. Tokyo comes alive, with downtown Ginza resembling Times Square on steroids, and Porto Corso is as picturesque as any Italian port town could be. London is, of course, the crown jewel and the finale of the race circuit.

With the old crew taking a back seat to some of the new characters, Pixar isn't relying solely on repeat business to fuel this go-round. New audiences will be equally drawn in without feeling like they've missed out on anything. The action definitely goes into overdrive compared to the original and if you blink you'll be breathing in the exhaust fumes, but with the race to the finish to top the box office in sight, "Cars 2" is a definite contender and internationally, look for this 3D instant classic to cruise comfortably onto the leader board.