The Pixar movie Cars was a huge hit when it was released in 2006 although critics thought it was not one of the studios best works. The inevitable sequel (toy sales for the original were extremely high) arrived this summer and the film was universally hailed as Pixar's worst film yet but still managed to succeed at the box office. Having small kids, I watched Cars quite a few times and quite enjoyed it. The sequel does not live up to the magic of the original but is one of the best looking and sounding Blu-rays I have seen from Pixar to date.
Set after the events of the original film Cars 2 picks up with Radiator Springs booming thanks to the notoriety of Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson). He lives part time in Radiator Springs and has won four Piston Cups, now named the Hudson Hornet Piston Cup as a nod to the departed character, in effect honoring the departed Paul Newman who voiced him. Through a random series of events Lightning McQueen is invited to participate in a World Racing event hosted by alternative fuel magnate Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard). But this movie is not truly about Lightning McQueen and his races against Italian Indy car rival Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro), instead it is about his rust tow truck friend Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). See through a very clichéd sequence of mistaken identities Mater gets involved in a tale of espionage and intrigue (seriously).
Cars 2 quickly introduces us to a couple of spies: The dashing, debonair and very capable British superspy Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and his assistant Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer). They are tracking the nefarious Professor Zündapp (Thomas Kretschmann) and his shadowy (and secret) leader as the evil group tries to sabotage the World Grand Prix. Seems the group owns a huge expanse of oil platforms and if the alternative biofuel called Alinol is successfully used at the World Grand Prix then the need for oil could diminish.
Over the course of the film we are taken from Radiator Springs to exotic locals like Japan, Italy and England as the World Grand Prix progresses and Mater is pulled from one crazy situation to the next. Much of the previous cast returns as McQueen’s pit crew but are given very little screen time. For good or ill this is Mater’s movie as he shows that he is more than just an idiotic rusted out tow truck. The movie is bigger, explores the world made up of a culture of vehicles and ultimately falls flat.