Pixar means magic. Its movies have touched popular culture and the human heart.
John Lasseter – the film's director as well as the chief creative officer for Pixar and Disney – and company make movies that are both critical and box office successes (22 Oscars and more than $6 billion in gross revenues).
That said, it is not out of the question that they miss the mark sometimes, right?
"Cars 2" is a vanity picture from Lasseter, who directs this movie out of his love for the characters and cars. There's no deeper meaning or tugging at the heart strings here; just a nice movie that's enjoyable and fun.
In this story, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) returns home to Radiator Springs. He has just won his fourth Piston Cup. Awaiting him is his best friend, Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). Mater has a whole summer planned, like tipping over earth movers.
But the plans are interrupted by news that Sir Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard) has developed a renewable fuel that can power cars without the use of fossil fuels.
To celebrate and introduce this new fuel, he is sponsoring the World Grand Prix. He wants Lightning to run, but Lightning doesn't want to leave home to go to Tokyo, Italy and London to run the three races required.
Mater changes all that, so Mater and the whole gang from Radiator Springs head overseas for the races.
A background story finds a group of lemon cars trying to rid the world of Axlerod's new fuel. Seems they have connections to the largest untapped oil reserve in the world. On the case of this mystery is super spy car Finn McMissile (Michael Caine).
McMissile's travels bring him into contact with Mater. He mistakes Mater for an American spy, and the movie follows Mater as he works with McMissile and his lovely partner (Emily Mortimer) to solve the mystery.
"Cars 2" isn't a typical Pixar movie, which usually delivers some crisis that is easily identifiable to the audience (e.g., in "Finding Nemo," it is the search for a lost child).
Here, the problem is a misunderstanding between Lightning and Mater, and it's nothing more than a means of servicing the larger reason for this movie, which is a spy movie using cars as characters.
"Cars 2" is a Mater movie, with all the other characters in service to him. And that could be the reason why some critics don't care for this sequel.
Larry the Cable Guy is Mater, so of course he's uncouth, full of bad manners and always saying the wrong thing. With Larry very much thought of as "politically incorrect," people may see too much of Larry when Mater is on the screen.
But one thing can be said: Lasseter loves Mater. Lasseter created a movie that allows the "comic relief" to step into the starring role.
That may not be a "Pixar movie," but it makes for a fun summer movie that will appeal to all ages.
I loved it and think you probably will, too.
MikeParnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: G.
Director: John Lasseter
Writer: Ben Queen
Cast: Larry the Cable Guy: Mater; Owen Wilson: Lightning McQueen; Michael Caine: Finn McMissile; Eddie Izzard: Sir Miles Axlerod; John Turturro: Francesco Bernoulli.