Fri 24 Jun 2011
This is the first time I’ve been more excited about the short film than the feature when it comes to a Pixar production. While “Cars” was good, it doesn’t hold a candle to most of their canon, like “Finding Nemo”, “WALL·E“, and “Up“.
However, it appeals to a large demographic (Larry the Cable Guy is more popular than those of us on the West Coast would like to admit) and NASCAR is huge in much of the country (again, not necessarily in the metropolitan areas). Fans of either were happy to see the first film and its box office success (not to mention toy sales) made a sequel inevitable I suppose.
But before I get too ahead of myself, as is the custom with Pixar features, first on the review agenda is the short film – which in this case comes in the form of “Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation”. I guess they didn’t want to tease the audience with something original before a sequel and so we get to catch up with Woody, Buzz, and the gang as they help Ken and Barbie cope with missing a chance to visit Hawaii.
It’s cute and there are some laughs here but the unoriginality of it is disappointing. This is the kind of short better slapped onto a DVD as an extra rather than released theatrically (and I will be quite disappointed if it continues their trend of animated short film nominations at the Oscars).
But, for full disappointment, look no further than the feature, “Cars 2″. Not only are we forgoing any sense of originality, the fundamental flaw is that there is no soul, no heart … it’s an empty shell. Director John Lasseter, who’s been the driving force behind Pixar’s string of success seems to be phoning it in here (he also helmed the first in this franchise). Worst still is that the feature is centered around the tow truck, Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy). While accompanying the face of the franchise, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), to a big race, Mater gets mistaken for a secret agent and hijinks ensue. Ugh.
And the 3D? What 3D? There’s an opening scene where the extra dimension helps make huge ocean waves look fairly cool but other than that, very few items extend out of the screen and the shallow sense of depth is hardly worth the extra bucks.
Everything in the film is aimed at the lowest common denominator, follows the same roadmap audiences have seen a thousand times before, and the underlying message is that Big Oil is bad and alternative fuels are what we need. Wait, isn’t this a kids film? Whatever. If you’re a HUGE Larry the Cable Guy fan, this will probably be a hit with you. Otherwise, steer well clear of this wreck.
For 15 years and 11 movies, Pixar had never failed to deliver quality entertainment that appealed to both kids and adults. With “Cars 2″, that streak is over and I’m afraid it’s getting a 1.5 out of 5. I would have loved to walk out of the film but then it would make reviewing it a bit disingenuous. It’s boring, it drags on and on, it never pulls at the heartstrings, and it should have been sent straight to DVD.
I had thought that Pixar might remain the one studio that realized they could make money AND make good films at the same time. This is the kind of lazy storytelling we’ve come to expect from other studios and it’s a shame we can no longer simply rely on at least one worthwhile American animated film each year from the people who filled the gap Disney opened as they started their own downward spiral in the late nineties (are are only just beginning to come out of). Here’s hoping next year’s original Pixar project, “Brave”, will put things back on track.