Cars 2 Blu-ray Review: Stuck in Neutral

After over 15 years of unparalleled critical and commercial feature film success, it was inevitable that Pixar would hit a wall, but unfortunate that it took the destruction of their previously-enjoyable Carsniverse to do so. Offering none of the heart and barely any characters of the original, Cars 2 sends its top stars Lightning McQueen and Mater on an ill-advised spy trek/world grand prix far away from the cozy confines of Radiator Springs. How did this seem like a good idea to the notoriously story-centric Pixar brain trust? The only logical explanation is merchandising, as the film offers up a dizzying array of new characters ready to win your toy dollars. The problem with that approach comes when the associated movie flames out, burned at the box office due to a weak story driven more by a need to market tons of new characters than a desire to explore any of them.

The old gang in Radiator Springs gets a cursory appearance at the opening of the film, but in no time McQueen has signed on for a prestigious race in multiple stages at international courses in Japan, Monte Carlo, and England. His nemesis is an Italian race car whose sole role seems to be to needle McQueen at every opportunity, making for a completely flat character.

Meanwhile, Mater tags along to assist McQueen, but he’s soon unknowingly embroiled in some international spy shenanigans involving super spy Finn McMissile (Michael Caine). I’m fairly certain Mater’s bumbling spy schtick is about as entertaining as recent box-office turd Johnny English Reborn, but definitely more disappointing because he’s been turned into such a buffoon as opposed to his sweet turn in the first film. Hey, look at the yokel do dumb things in international hot spots! Sound like fun? Nope.

This being a Pixar film, at least it still looks and sounds great, and the Blu-ray experience is well worth it if you’re determined to watch the film anyway. The bonus features include two shorts: Toy Story’s “Hawaiian Vacation” that was also bundled with the Cars 2 theatrical release, as well as a new Cars Toon entitled “Air Mater”. They’re both amusing, which is more than can be said of the feature film. Elsewhere, returning director and Disney/Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter offers a commentary track that fails to comment on how the film survived Pixar’s historically stringent quality control.

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Steve Geise

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