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Star racecar Lightning McQueen and the incomparable tow truck Mater take their friendship to exciting new places when they head overseas to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix to determine the world's fastest car. But the road to the championship is filled with plenty of potholes, detours and hilarious surprises when Mater gets caught up in an intriguing adventure of his own: international espionage.
For more about Cars 2 and the Cars 2 Blu-ray release, see Cars 2 Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 18, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Joe Mantegna, Cheech Marin, John Ratzenberger
Directors: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis
» See full cast & crew
Cars 2 Blu-ray Review
If I'm lying, I'm crying...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 18, 2011
I suppose it was bound to happen. Pixar couldn't continue to churn out modern animated classics one after the other. I just didn't expect Pixar's most uninspired, conventional film to date to come on the heels of Toy Story 3, one of the animation powerhouse's finest. No, Cars 2 isn't a complete failure. It's fun, it's funny, it's flashy, it's full of fast, none-too-furious spy-vs-spy hijinks. But it's also flat, one-dimensional and, despite a high-profile theatrical release, hindered by direct-to-video storytelling. Mater is thrust into the spotlight, a misstep from which the sequel never really recovers; new characters are shortchanged, even though they frequently upstage McQueen and other Radiator Springs regulars; and the entire film feels like an extended Mater's Tall Tales short, a 106-minute routine that isn't nearly as entertaining as its four-minute small screen counterparts. Cars 2 is an average animated adventure, one that kids will undoubtedly love. But let's be honest: when it comes to Pixar, average just doesn't cut it.
Rust-riddled tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) and four-time Piston Cup champion race car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) are back and raring to go in Cars 2, even though they quickly ditch Radiator Springs and leave the majority of the first film's characters in the rearview mirror. When an alternative fuel mogul named Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard) is hosting a three-race Grand Prix to showcase his latest innovation: Allinol, a game-changing biofuel that attracts the attention of the world... and a few unsavory lemons, namely the sinister Professor Zündapp (Thomas Kretschmann) and his near-endless supply of embittered henchmen. Zündapp's scheme? To sabotage the Grand Prix competitors, discredit Axlerod, put a stop to Allinol and keep the cars of the world dependent on oil. Luckily, British superspy Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and trainee Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) are hot on the evil professor's trail. Well, it would be lucky if McMissile and Shiftwell didn't mistake Mater for an American spy. Whoops. After embarrassing McQueen in Tokyo, Mater finds himself caught up in an international bit of intrigue that pits him against gun-toting junkers, Zündapp and a shadowy mastermind. Can he stop the bad guys? Can he retain his friendship with McQueen? Can he win the girl and save the world from an oil-stained future? If anyone can, Mater... might.
Jetting off to Japan, Italy and England may strike some as a dangerous departure from everything that made Cars the entertaining and surprisingly emotional road trip that it is and, to an extent, that isn't far off. Doc is shuffled off without much explanation (other than the passing of original voice actor Paul Newman), Sally (Bonnie Hunt) stays in the States until the last leg of the Grand Prix, and other favorites, Guido and Luigi (Guido Quaroni and Tony Shalhoub) chief among them, aren't given much room to work. And Filmore (Lloyd Sherr), Sarge (Paul Dooley), Mack (John Ratzenberger), Sherriff (Michael Wallis), Ramone (Cheech Marin) and Flo (Jenifer Lewis)? They get even less screentime, even though Filmore and Sarge join Guido and Luigi in McQueen's pit crew. (Come to think of it, why is Filmore still kicking? George Carlin died, but Filmore earns a new voice actor. Why drop Doc, then? Especially when his death isn't crucial to the plot. At all.) Don't blame co-directors John Lasseter and Brad Lewis' Bond-fueled premise, though. For ten action-packed minutes, Cars 2 burns rubber and flashes its true potential as secret agent extraordinaire Finn McMissile infiltrates an oil rig, dips into a bag of gadgets, and blasts out of the shadows as one of the most exciting new additions to the franchise. He's 007 and a sleek, tricked-out superspy ride, all rolled into one. With Michael Caine at the wheel, how could it go wrong? By introducing McMissile in spectacular fashion and then relegating him to a supporting role, that's how. And he isn't alone. Almost everyone, save Mater, is a supporting player while overpopulation and over-plotting take their toll.
So if spies are the sequel's nuts 'n bolts, why not abandon the Radiator Springs crew altogether? Had Lasseter and Lewis simply parted ways with McQueen and Mater and made the Cars universe just that -- a universe that didn't hinge on any one or two characters -- the sputtering sequel would have had plenty of open road to explore. Instead, we're treated to a startlingly predictable round of mistaken identity with Mater; a slightly tedious take on The Man Who Knew Too Much (channeled by way of Jon Amiel's already tedious The Man Who Knew Too Little). If you thought Mater was a one-trick tow truck before, just wait till you get a load of him here; if you've seen the Cars 2 trailer, you've already seen the breadth of his arc; if you've seen Mater's Tall Tales, you'll see the formula coming a mile away. (A last-minute gag all but confirms it.) There's some soul-searching thrown in for good measure, sure, but nothing that resonates, and certainly nothing that reaches the heights or depths of other Pixar productions. Even Cars, considered by many to be the lowest common denominator in the Pixar equation, runs circles around its sequel, delving into deeper waters and examining everything from socioeconomic hardships to generational divides to once-proud communities bypassed by modern civilization. When asked what Mater came to learn over the course of Cars 2, my six-year-old, typically dead on with his analyses (I've trained him well), thought for a moment, shrugged his shoulders and said, "how to use mini guns?" As usual, he got it right.
But he also had a blast in the theater, even as his dear ol' dad and mum grew more and more disenchanted. His review: "It was very funny and very good. And very action-y!" As I said, children will find Cars 2 to be flashy, funny, and fun. Adults may groan and wonder where the Pixar magic has gone, but kids won't bemoan the downgrade for a second. (And no, if you have a blast with it all, I'm not equating you with a child. You're allowed to indulge in harmless fun from time to time too.) If anything, kids will declare it one of their favorite Pixar productions as it dispenses with unnecessary time-sinks like character development, nuanced themes, seamless allegory and other things early grade schoolers tend to deem non-essentials. Am I being too harsh? Maybe. I'll be the first to admit I expect far more from Pixar. I'll also be the first to admit those same lofty expectations made it that much harder to sit back and enjoy Cars 2 on its own terms. But, lest we forget, it's Pixar that's set such steep standards. It's Pixar that's raised the proverbial bar so high. And it's Pixar's stunning successes that make a serviceable sequel like Cars 2 difficult to swallow. So harsh is relative. Still, my son spit out his first "you just don't get it dad" (presumably the first of many) and there's an argument to be made for embracing kids' entertainment as kids' entertainment. Not that it's a very sound argument. Don't get me wrong, I have no intention of telling my son he can't watch a movie he loves a second, third or fourth time. But I will space out of his viewings and continue to help him refine his cinematic palette by pointing him in the direction of better animated films, more rewarding Pixar adventures and richer sequels than Cars 2. Passable as it may be, kid-friendly as it is, it just doesn't measure up.
Cars 2 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Disney has set a high bar of its own and the sequel's video presentation doesn't disappoint. As bright, colorful and cheery as the international adventure it accompanies, the studio's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is magnificent. Striking colors, vibrant primaries, impeccable contrast and deep, inky blacks are only the beginning as the entire film springs to life in glorious high definition. Detail is fantastic, tearing around the bend with razor-sharp clarity, pixel-perfect textures and refined edges. Note every tiny car in the crowds that line the Grand Prix races, the smallest flecks of rust on Mater's wheel wells, the distant buildings and intricate architecture of the various cityscapes, the sparks that fly when bullets ricochet off the street, and every last nick, ding and bit of body damage. Nothing, literally nothing, knocks the presentation off course. Artifacting, ringing, aliasing, digital noise and, yes, even banding are either kept to the barest of minimums or nowhere to be found, and the encode is polished and proficient. Disney delivers yet another Pixar knockout.
Cars 2 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Disney's DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track doesn't stall, slip or spin its wheels. It peels off the starting line and... feel free to insert your own hyperbolic vehicular pun, so long as it conveys just how arresting and enveloping the sequel's lossless sonics truly are. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, allowing voices to inhabit the action rather than hover above it. The rear speakers only help, creating immersive environment after immersive environment, be it in America, Italy, Japan or England. Directional effects zip across the soundfield, pans sneak behind enemy lines with ease, and ambience is convincing, engrossing and, best of all, ever-present. Likewise, blaring gunfire, roaring engines and city-shaking explosions rip through the soundfield courtesy of an LFE channel that slams on the gas and never lets up. Low-end elements are both weighty and nimble thanks to excellent dynamics and a full-throttle soundstage teeming with everything in Lasseter's arsenal. Suffice it to say, the mix is flawless, the races sound amazing, and the spy-vs-spy intrigue propels Cars 2 across the finish line.
Cars 2 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The vast majority of Cars 2 extras are exclusive to the 5-disc 3D combo pack; a trend that began with the Blu-ray release of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D and may end if the small uproar it's causing with some consumers continues. In the meantime, those who can't get enough special features will need to pick up the 3D release, regardless of whether or not they have a 3D display.
Cars 2 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Cars 2 idles when it should barrel towards the checkered flag and Pixar, for perhaps the first time in its history, loses a race to other animation studios. (You can almost hear Dreamworks cry, "finally!") There's still plenty of fun and action to be had, but the story, characters and pacing are lacking, and the sequel will be far more appealing to kids than their parents. Thankfully, Disney's AV presentation -- complete with a stunning video transfer and a terrific DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track -- takes away some of the sting; so much so that it might make it easier for Pixar fans to enjoy Cars 2 more than they would have otherwise. The biggest letdown is the 2D edition's supplemental package. While the 5-disc 3D combo pack offers additional featurettes, deleted scenes and other high definition extras, the 2D release only includes an audio commentary and two animated shorts. Ah well. If you have any love of the Cars 2 universe, Mater, McQueen and the rest of the Radiator Springs crew, add the sequel's Blu-ray release to your shopping cart. If you have any love of special features, though, be sure to add the 5-disc 3D combo pack to your cart, regardless of whether or not you have a 3D-capable display.
Cars 2: Other Editions
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Cars 2 Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Amazon Discount for Pixar Blu-ray Combo Packs - August 27, 2011
As a promotion for the November 1st Blu-ray release of Cars 2, Amazon is offering a special discount with the purchase of two selected Pixar Blu-ray combo packs. Buyers who order any of the Cars 2 combo packs as well as an additional sale title will automatically ...
• Cars 2 Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D (Updated) - August 18, 2011
Amazon is currently listing pre-orders for the Blu-ray release of Cars 2. The 12th Pixar film will be treated to Disney's 5-disc combo pack which includes a Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray version of the film, a Blu-ray disc for special features, and a DVD/digital copy. ...
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