2011-06-24

Cars 2 – A Pleasing Pleasure Cruise

by Yo Snyder

Cars is not my favorite Pixar film. Funny thing is, a lot of
people feel that way. Its not that its a bad movie, its just not as
good as most of the rest of Pixars movies. So why make a sequel to it?
The main rumor is it was more of a merchandising-driven decision than
anything else; but whatever the reason, the fact is we have it so we
might as well try to enjoy it.Leaving Cars 2, I had pretty much the same feeling I did
after leaving the first movie; its not Pixars best, but its certainly
better than what just about everyone else is capable of. If nothing
else, it convinced me of one apparent fact: Pixar is incapable of making
a bad movie, no matter how outlandish the idea may be.

Before I get too much further into Cars 2, I want to talk
about what we saw before the movie which isnt something I normally do.
But there was some interesting stuff on the screen before we got to the
actual movie.

First we saw an extended preview of The Lion King in 3D. I
have to admit, Ive been pretty skeptical about this project. I mean
its a great movie and all, but how do you take 2D, hand-drawn animation
and turn it into a 3D movie? Well I have say, after seeing the first
seven minutes or so of the movie, it looks pretty good. The 3D adds, no
pun intended, a new dimension to the film and it doesnt look at all
like the typical, lazy post-production 3D conversions that run rampant
these days. This may just be one of those rare films thats worth seeing
in 3D when it returns to theaters in September.

Next we got a preview of Pixars next movie, Brave. It
didnt reveal a lot, but it got me excited. An adventure story of
Scottish lore? Cool. Some of Pixars best movies come when they take the
risk of being truly original: Wall-E, Up, Monsters, Inc. and so forth. After playing it safe with Toy Story 3 and Cars 2, its nice to see Pixar isnt afraid of taking risks on unusual story ideas.

Speaking of Toy Story, we also got to see the gang again in a
short that played before the movie started. It was nice to see Woody
and the gang happy and content (especially after the emotional good-bye
in Toy Story 3), and their Hawaiian Vacation is a great, fun,
light-hearted mini-adventure with some beloved characters. Then it was
on to the actual movie.

The very concept of Cars 2 is pretty strange. Take the elements of the classic James Bond movies, mix in a bit of Bill Murrays underrated The Man Who Knew Too Little, mix that with anthropomorphic cars, and sprinkle in Pixars talent for weaving a good story, and viola! Cars 2.
Its a strange mix, but you know what? It works. Somehow John Lasseter
and crew were able to put it all together into a fun and entertaining
movie. Again, I dont think this was Pixars best effort, but as per
their usual, even the okay movies from Pixar are often far better than
the good ones put out by others, and Cars 2 definitely falls
into that category. I think anyone else would have badly bungled this
whole concept, but the careful, thoughtful story telling expertise of
Pixar makes it work.

As is often the case, this sequel is a bit darker than its
predecessor. I was shocked at how many cars actually died during the
course of this story. None of it happens on screen, but it was still
surprising. Also, this story is far more complex. Using many of the
familiar tropes of the Bond genre, we have a megalomaniac villain with
plans to rule the world through a convoluted plot that involves
alternative fuel and big oil.
Some of the twists and turns of this plot may be a little much for
younger kids to follow along with, but the brilliance of these kinds of
Pixar movies is that it doesnt really matter. The kids will have plenty
of fun following along with Lightnings racing and Maters antics
regardless of whether or not they follow the subtleties of the plot. As
an adult, however, I was gratified to see that everything in the plot
fit. The best mysteries are the ones that could conceivably be solved by
the audience. All the pieces are there in Cars 2 in order to
figure out who done it, so when we get to the Scooby ending that walks
you through it all, it was very satisfying to see that all the pieces
fit. Again, the fact that both kids and adults can follow along with the
story on different levels is a testament to the brilliance of Pixars
storytelling abilities.

Despite all the racing and spy action, however, the core of this
story is really about friendship. Another great element of any Pixar
movie is its heart, and the heart of Cars 2 is revealed with a
simple statement: Whoever finds a friend finds a treasure. Both Mater
and Lightning learn just how true that is over the course of their
adventure. We can discover the same truth when we allow God to be a part of our
lives. The Bible tells us that Abraham was known as the friend of God.
How cool is that? The God of the entire Universe called this guy his
friend? Whats even better is that he wants to be your friend as well.
The Bible says God is a friend who sticks closer than a brother;
couldnt we all use a friend like that? You know, its amazing the great
lengths God went through to make friendship with us possible. Sin
prevented that from ever being possible, but through the death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ, the problem of sin was done away with and
the path cleared for us to be Gods friend. He certainly sees our
friendship as a rare treasure that was worth great sacrifice; the
question is, are we going to accept that friendship or turn our back on
Him?

You know, to be honest I didnt think the first Cars movie would work, but I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed it. I wasnt convinced a sequel to Cars,
let alone a spy sequel, was going to work, but this time I had more
confidence in the ability of Pixar to make it work. So I wasnt quite as
surprised when it turned out just fine, and maybe that lack of surprise
is why I didnt enjoy it as much as the first movie. Which isnt to say
it isnt good, because it is; it even makes good use of 3D to enhance
whats going on rather than using it as just a gimmick. Still, its not
my favorite Pixar film. I think the first one had more heart, although
this one certainly has more action and some really funny parts.
Nevertheless, Pixar proves once again that even their sub-par efforts
are better then the best some others have to offer. Cars 2 is Pixar playing it safe, but its still an enjoyable ride.

Guide Rating: 5/7