Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Cars 2

Lowdown: James Bond meets Hitchcock at Pixar's Cars universe.
The original Cars was not Pixar’s greatest effort but it did prove a landmark movie at our household. Not only was it the first Blu-ray title we ever bought, for the benefit of our in house toddler, it was also the toddler’s first film to be watched from start to finish. That is not an achievement to trifle with: it means Cars is exciting enough to sit through in its entirety, but it also means it's not too scary to make our sensitive toddler want to quit while ahead. You could argue it is currently the most successful film at our household and that's without us even putting the fact cars are pretty attractive to the male toddler on the table.
Cars 2 is off to a good start, too. Given the success Cars has had with our toddler, we reckoned Cars 2 would be a worthy candidate for him to start his movie going career with. Let the pages of history say that Cars 2 (in 2D) was the first ever film seen by our toddler at a proper cinema. Also let those same pages say that Cars 2 represented the first time us parents have been to the cinema since our January 2010’s Avatar adventure. In many respects you can say that the visit to the cinema has been more central to our Cars 2 experience than the film itself; thus far it also looks like this review supports this notion.
Yet Cars 2 by itself is a worthy, highly entertaining movie. It’s set in the same world as before, a world populated mostly by cars and devoid of organic organisms such as us humans. At this point I shall refer you to John Scalzi’s brilliantly entertaining analysis of the Cars world here, an analysis in which Scalzi attempts to explain how a world such as this could have evolved.
In this weird mechanical world we meet the same characters from the previous film, namely Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and Mater the dumb but sweet tow truck. In contrast to episode 1, it is Mater who takes center stage in Cars 2: while a world wide car racing competition takes place in order to prove the merits of a new environmentally friendly fuel, thus supplying McQueen some racing action, Mater stumbles upon an evil conspiracy. Aided (or pushed) by the MI6 like secret agent car, Finn McMissile (Michael Caine doing the coolest car ever) and his sexy Moneypenny like assistant Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer), Mater finds himself to be the classic Hitchcock hero that slowly realizes he's in some big time trouble.
McQueen provides racing action, McMissile provides James Bond like action, and Mater provides a Hitchcockian flair. The same as well as other characters supply ample comedy (most notably the John Turturro voiced Italian Formula 1 car). Mix it all together with lovely computer graphics, some good jokes and a gripping plot and the result is a film this adult found highly entertaining. My toddler agreed with me, although I suspect the more philosophical aspects of the discussions on friendship and the environment went way over his head.
Who cares if Cars 2 is not the deepest film in the world when it is great all-around fun for the whole family?
Best scene: Finn McMissile pulling exotic car water tricks straight from the pages of The Spy Who Loved Me, one of my favorite Bond films. That’s just one of many winks towards film classics featured in Cars 2.
Technical assessment:
Coming into the cinema straight from my home theater setup, I was appalled with the presentation. At least in the first half hour the picture was mildly out of focus; throughout the film, though, the sound system was playing way louder than it was meant to play, resulting in very harsh sound that was quite uncomfortable on the ears. Sure, the cinema has its appeal – in going out of the house and socializing – but the home theater experience beats the crap out of it when it comes to quality.
That same day we rented a Blu-ray just so we could enjoy that delicate sound that comes with an uncompressed Blu-ray soundtrack played through a decent system.
Overall: Pixar has done it again. 4 out of 5 stars.

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