Your favorite Pixar characters are back … and not a moment too soon! In a fun-filled laugh riot, all your old friends remind you of the magic and charm you are supposed to feel while sitting in a movie. There’s that characteristic Pixar wit that you just know will still be funny years from now with a nice helping of heart.
Oh, I’m sorry, did you think I was talking about “Cars 2?” My apologies, that opening paragraph was referring to “Hawaiian Vacation,” the short film before the movie featuring the characters from “Toy Story 3.” The latest Pixar summer outing brings back some of the most forgettable characters in their vast universe of animation, Lightning McQueen and the down-home American cars from Radiator Springs.
Thankfully, “Cars 2″ feels like less of a letdown that it should following Best Picture nominees “Up” and “Toy Story 3″ because it only has to live up to a prestigious brand name, not a beloved original. In fact, it may be the rare summer sequel that is just as good as (if not better than) its predecessor. Neither have the heart or storytelling prowess of the Pixar classics, but watching John Lasseter and pals do sub-par work is better than watching most other animated movies nowadays.
Rather than bore us with a tired story about the meaning of friendship like the original “Cars,” the sequel takes a page from “Toy Story 3″ and does a kiddie version of a classic genre with its sleekly animated characters. Last summer, it was the prison escape; this year, Pixar brings us the spy genre starring Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy), the halfwit tow truck who gets unwittingly caught up in a world of British espionage. Alongside Finn McMissile (voice of Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (voice of Emily Mortimer), Mater tries to stop a plot to destroy his pal Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) and disrupt a car race on a world stage.
The movie has its ups and downs. Up: the action, the laughs courtesy of Larry the Cable Guy, the look of the film. Down: the plot, the lack of emotional depth. While the downs are a little disconcerting, especially considering how easily those come to Pixar year after year, the ups make “Cars 2″ a fun enough ride for summer. The animation powerhouse has been making superior films for so long that I’m willing to grant them a pass here for a slightly stalled engine. (Plus, the $6 billion the studio brings in from marketing and promotions is a savvy business strategy that will allow them to undergo riskier ventures in the future.) B /