To this day, I still consider Cars to be one of the lesser works in the Pixar canon. Granted, a lesser Pixar work is still better than the finest output of most studios, but when compared to the likes of the Toy Story movies or The Incredibles (my favorite Pixar movie), I find Cars lacking. When it was announced that Pixar would be making a Cars sequel, I was intrigued because of the Pixar name but my skepticism ran high. And the subsequent teasers, trailers, and other press materials did little to change that.
But Variety’s Justin Chang recently posted his Cars 2 review and it’s a pretty glowing one, calling it “the rare sequel that improves on its predecessor”:
Super-fast cars, cosmopolitan settings, sustainable energy—what’s not to love? Critics and columnists should have fun parsing the deeper political messages of “Cars 2,” which never allows its gas-guzzlers-vs.-hybrids topicality to overpower its exhilarating sense of play. As the film zips from Tokyo to Paris to the Italian Riviera to London, Lasseter, co-director Brad Lewis (taking over for the late Joe Ranft) and their crack team of animators unleash the sort of wizardly action sequences most live-action directors would envy, powered by the brassy James Bond-style riffs of Michael Giacchino’s score. Pic allows the viewer to relax into a pleasurable groove even as its abundant in-jokes and peripheral details encourage the mind to stay actively engaged.
Set in a world where cars are outfitted with machine guns, rockets, parachutes, holographic displays and, in perhaps one innovation too far, insta-disguise mechanisms, “Cars 2” is as close to a pure boys’ movie as the toon studio has yet made—though all boys’ movies should be so universal in appeal. More so than the Pixar norm, pic possesses a certain lowbrow streak entirely consistent with its vroom-vroom milieu, handily demonstrating that the often-aggravating staples of so much kid-friendly animation—nonstop banter, ethnic accents, goofy wordplay (mileage may vary), even bathroom humor—can be executed with wit and class.
I had initially planned on skipping Cars 2 and instead, sending my oldest—who, not surprisingly, digs the first Cars movie—off to see it with his grandparents. But now I’m truly intrigued, and might just have to tag along for the ride.