Director: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis
Writers: Ben Queen, John Lasseter, Brad Lewis, Dan Fogelman
Cast: Owen Wilson. Larry the Cable Guy, John Turturro, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Eddie Izzard, Thomas Kretschmann
SYNOPSIS: Renowned race car Lightning McQueen travels overseas to compete in the World Grand Prix with races in Tokyo, London and Porta Corsa. Along the way, Mater gets mistaken for a spy and get embroiled in international espionage involving a new fuel alternative.
REVIEW: Pixar and Disney return with their followup sequel to 2006's Cars. John Lasseter and crew took audiences and driven-to-win Lightning McQueen to Radiator Springs along the historic Route 66 in the original, but open up the lightning fast red race car and his tow truck pal Mator to the world in this sophomore effort. As Sir Miles Axlerod (voiced by Eddie Izzard) develops an alternative biofuel, Allinal, he invites the best race cars from around the world to race against each other using his fuel in the World Grand Prix. During the races, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) runs into tough competition in the form of Formula 1 racer Francesco Bernoulli (voiced by John Turturro).
McQueen reluctantly invites Mator along to work as part of his pit crew. True to form and to McQueen's expectations, Mator's small town ways - and the fact that Mator is mistaken for an American spy - embarrasses McQueen and causes him to lose the first leg of the race. So even though Lightning McQueen learned the importance of friends and home, Cars 2 shows that he still has a lot to learn. Telling his friend Mator that he doesn't need his help just proves the fact.
But the story of Lightning McQueen takes a back seat to a Tow Truck, the global settings, and international espionage in Cars 2. Center stage is Tow Mator (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy), a small town tow truck from Radiator Springs trying to spend time with his best friend McQueen once the Piston Cup racing season ends. Passed sensitive information by a real spy during the kick-off party before the first leg of the World Grand Prix, Mator is eventually approached by British agents Finn McMissle (superbly voiced by Michael Caine) and Holly Shiftwell (smoothly voiced by Emily Mortimer) to figure out the underhanded evil plans that threaten all of the racers and the new fuel. In true James Bond form, the monocled Professor Z (voiced by Thomas Kretschmann) and his henchmen Grem (Joe Mantegna) and Acer (Peter Jacobson) deepen their nefarious plot headed up by a unknown puppet master. Should Mator acts like someone different in order to fit in? Can he actually pull off being the spy that everyone thinks him to be? Can Tow Mator, Average Intelligence, be true to himself?
Celebrating their 25th anniversary, The Pixar Animation Studio continues to exceed the excellence that audiences expects. Moving from the one stop light dusty desert town to a world stage brings with it new challenges and new visual wonders. Tokyo glimmers like a reflective neon carnival, Lightning McQueen anime plush toys in the stores and Lightning McClean vacuum billboard ads everywhere you look. Porta Corsa, cut from the Italian countryside is a fictitious Monte Carlo, complete with casinos, yachts and clear waters. London is rendered with spot-of-tea time charm and tradition.
Some adults may find the story of international intrigue a far cry from the journey of self-discovery in the deserts off of Route 66 in the small forgotten town of Radiator Springs, finding the 007 fuel-injected nitrous-thrill ride as foreign as the exotic locales that McQueen and Mator find themselves. But repeating the same story, or winning another Piston Cup just wouldn't be as interesting as the first time around. In true sequel forms, the explosions are bigger, the gadgets are shinier and the stakes are higher. Taken as a standalone film with back-story ties to the original, Cars 2 may not be Pixar's best effort but does run like a finely-tuned, precision machine that most will want to take for a spin.
WORTH: Matinee and DVD