I don’t think many would argue that the original Cars ranks near the bottom of Pixar’s celebrated filmography.  But even if it can’t compare
to the excellence the studio has shown so routinely, Cars was a fun film with a lot of personality and heart.  It’s still a good movie, just not a
great one.

Unfortunately, Cars 2 not only brings up the rear, but is the first true dud in the company’s 25-year run.

Cars 2 is an unremarkable and misguided film that ham-fistedly combines characters from the original film into the middle of a James Bond
movie.

Almost completely gone is the rustic charm of Radiator Springs, that cool classic car-Americana atmosphere and the inspiring rise of racer
Lightning McQueen.

What we get instead is a decent spy spoof starring Mater as The Tow Truck Who Knew Too Little.  All the other old characters, even
McQueen, are simply there to justify Cars 2 as a legitimate sequel.

There is way too much of Larry the Cable Guy as Mater.  His witless, goofy antics are just not funny enough to carry this film.

There is nothing painfully unfunny, but the film is only mildly amusing at its best times.

The best moments involve the 007-inspired sequences with old pro Flinn McMissile (Unmistakably voiced by Michael Caine) and Ms. Holley
Shiftwell.

It’s here that Cars 2 shows signs of that Pixar spark.  The action sequences are energetically directed by John Lasseter (and co-director
Brad Lewis); and there are even a few glimpses of actual wit.

It’s too bad this wasn’t developed as an original story based around these new characters, because it could have been a lot more fun than
watching the dumb adventures of Mater.

Ben Queen’s screenplay can’t decide whether it’s a sequel to Cars or a through and through espionage thriller.  The two sides clash at
times and never mesh in a satisfying way.  The undercover antics of Mater and the tacked-on races of McQueen feel like they are two
different movies.

Neither one is good enough to make up for its split personality.

Cars 2 is really a pace car of a movie.  It steadily and efficiently goes through the motions without ever boring or inspiring.

The film does receive the studio’s typically excellent sound mixing/editing treatment, smooth visuals, and Michael Giacchino’s score has
some fun with a 007-flavored score.  It isn’t nearly enough.

Whatever Cars 2 should or shouldn’t have been, what it is doesn’t work.  Although it has some good storytelling here and there, it’s lacking
in the inspiration that has fueled Pixar in the past.

It doesn’t have the wit of Toy Story, the thrills of The Incredibles, the originality of Rataoutille, the drama of Up.

It may come from exceptionally talented people, but Cars 2 is completely forgettable.  Its themes are tired, characters uninspiring and its
sense of humor is hit and miss at very best.

It’s not quite a lemon, but Cars 2 sputters its way into mediocrity.

* *
(out of four)
CARS 2

Directed by: John Lasseter and Brad Lewis

Written by: Ben Queen

Starring: Larry the Cable Guy, Owen Wilson, Michael
Caine, Emily Mortimer, Eddie Izzard, John Turturro

Music by: Michael Giacchino

Released: June 24, 2011; 112 Minutes