Who's In It: The voices of Owen Wilson, Larry The Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Eddie Izzard, John Turturro
The Basics: Mater the tow truck (Larry The Cable Guy) finds himself the unwitting pawn in a dangerous international spy game involving Big Oil, alternative fuels and a racing saboteur causing the destruction of fellow anthropomorphic cars. Sophisticated audiences will understand that this situation will necessarily call for Mater to summon new reserves of believing in himself to end this threat to his fellow motor vehicles. And I did not feel ridiculous writing that sentence for reasons I'm about to explain...
What's The Deal: This movie and Cars before it are both pitched at a decibel that only little kids can hear. And that's fine. When I was that age, my brother and I were really into a terrible Saturday morning cartoon called Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch. It was about a talking car and his arch-enemies, a mean gang of talking motorcycles. I'm certain our parents wandered through the living room at some point, looked at the TV screen, shook their heads and kept walking. So when I say that nothing in this movie made me laugh and that nothing thrilled me or filled me with the joy that most Pixar films manage to supply, that nothing on screen was exciting or moving or more clever than a series of visual nods to vintage spy movies, I'm pretty much just saying that I'm no longer six years old.
Suffers By Comparison To: The new Toy Story short, Hawaiian Vacation, that will screen before Cars 2 in its theatrical run. It's only a few minutes long but it manages to out-wit and out-funny everything in Cars 2's entire running time. There's a great divide that exists between these two franchises; one of them has mastered the difficult task of appealing to every age group at its own level and the other one is aimed exclusively at children and doesn't even try to win over the (non-animation nerd) adults who have no choice but to show up with their kids. You'd think that the grown-up audience that actually buys the billions of dollars worth of Cars toys and other merch wouldn't have to deal with being so studiously ignored, especially when no other Pixar movie has ever intentionally shut them out of the equation. But that's what's happening here.
For The Animation Nerds: You'll be impressed. It looks and feels like a couple hundred million dollars. There are moments in this movie that don't appear to have been whipped up out of electricity, air and codes at all, that are so cool and lifelike and depth-perception-altering that they seem to have been created with astoundingly colorful three-dimensional objects in real space. It's what saves this entire situation from irrelevance.
Stuff You'll Think About When You're Bored: If the world (and you see a lot of it here as they globetrot to Tokyo, Paris and other cities) is full of cars and not humans, who puts in the gasoline? How did they make all the buildings? To what end did they create the Eiffel Tower? Who's driving?!