The Shallow Man Movie Review: Cars 2


With “Cars 2,” Pixar goes somewhere new: the ditch. Reprising its least-inspired effort, the studio has rolled out an inferior encore. “Cars 2” is one “Cars” too many.

Is it awful? No, just humdrum. Does it look astonishing? Yes, but so do the “Transformers” movies. Will children like it? Yes, they are children. Is it up to Pixar’s standards? Not even close. Saddled with a hectic story, flat-lining character arcs and action sequences apparently conceived as levels for a video game, “Cars 2” is all motion and no emotion.

As we recall from his 2006 debut, Lightning McQueen, the speedy red racer voiced by Owen Wilson, was once a stuck-up sophisticate. When fate trapped him in the sleepy desert town of Radiator Springs, he lamented, “I’m in hillbilly hell. My IQ is dropping by the minute. I’m becoming one of them!” By the end of “Cars,” the hotshot had learned to take life at a slower pace, enjoying the homey burg and its amiable hicks.

For their second outing, Lightning takes a world tour with sidekick Tow Mater (a rusty salvage truck voiced by Larry the Cable Guy). They pack plenty of clamor and shtick but scarcely any soul. With his lowbrow pal in tow to provide dumb jokes, Lightning enters a globe-hopping Formula 1 race. With its elaborate international settings, the film feels more bloated than big.



The first film was a gentle satire of salt-of-the-earth Americans—and by extension the audience—that was executed with aw-shucks charm. The sequel piles on scenes of Mater’s inappropriate idiocy as he becomes the lead character and Lightning recedes to the background.

The country bumpkin is pulled into the spy thriller subplot through mistaken identity, and there we all are, trapped in hillbilly hell, our IQs eroding by the second. After brilliant films like the “Toy Story” trilogy, “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille” celebrated excellence and sophistication, it stings to see a Pixar release champion a narrow, ignorant worldview.

We expect more than perfunctory time-wasters from the wizards who brought us “Up,” “Monsters, Inc.” and “Wall-E.” Heck, we expect more than entertainment. We view their films to experience enchantment. This time we get disenchantment. 

“Cars 2” is a dull ride.

Grade ★ ★ 1/2 out of 5 stars
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