Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cars 2

I am a Pixar fanboy. I’ve gone off on endless hyperbole about how they are the best set of filmmakers working today and continue to be innovative storytellers by adding nuanced respect towards children. I’ve said they don’t fall on crutch themes like “Be yourself” and “Save the environment” like too many bland animated films. Every year a Pixar film is highly placed in my best of the year lists.

I am a fanboy, but I am a realized fanboy. “Love and Monsters” is a horrendous episode of Doctor Who. Ana Lucia was a big misstep on LOST. Torn Curtain, New York New York, and Fahrenheit 451 are all lousy movies. Early Beatles is a tad overrated and I’m still not a fan of Temple of Doom.

I’m able to love something but I still have a foot in reality to recognize when there is a flaw. This is a long build up to the reveal of how terrible Cars 2 is. I didn’t like Cars but I never hated it. It was just an odd rip-off of Doc Hollywood with a world that didn’t make sense. Still it was a bit charming and had a decent message. A colleague of mine mentioned after this screening, that Cars’s message is almost reversed with this manically busy film.

Cars 2 is almost a challenge they made amongst themselves to have the world make even less sense. Cars will randomly fly, change appearance, and travel on a rope. Boats will fire guns and then another car will be on the boat firing guns that are attached to the boat, but the boat can’t operate it? They aren’t cars anymore, but oddly shaped robots. Jesus…they’re transformers.

It seems like I’m nitpicking, but I’m only doing that because the story is horrible. Mater the idiotic tow truck (Larry the Cable Guy) is accidently recruited as an American spy when they all travel to Europe to race in the Grand Prix. Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer play British secret agent cars who are trying to uncover a very obvious plot. Meanwhile Owen Wilson returns as the nice guy racecar who wants to win the Grand Prix because an annoying Formula One car (John Turturro) taunts him for not being that fast.

This is all incredibly uninteresting because Mater is a lousy character. He was sorta tolerable in the first movie because the real focus was on Lightening McQueen’s arc about understanding the simple things in life. This time he is the main character and borderline unbearable. The humor is awful. It’s composed of terrible puns, obvious punchlines, and boring situations. There is an on-going joke about a bomb that would not end and as far as I know, could still be going on.

So what’s the message? The recent Pixar films have taught children to appreciate art and how to express themselves. There have been stories about understanding loneliness, death, and the afterlife. What is Cars 2 trying to teach children? The movie shoehorns this idea that it is okay that Mater is an obnoxious imbecile that causes trouble and that Big Oil is villainous.

Aka, you should just be yourself and save the environment.

And it doesn’t even do a good job about delivering either of those messages.

As if the film didn’t already feel like a colossal mess, they do one more thing to drive me nuts: they rip off my all time favorite animated movie. At one point some of the heroes are in the gears of Big Ben about to be smashed. Just like The Great Mouse Detective. Basil of Baker Street didn’t use random machine guns to get out of his trap, for the record.

This is what The Phantom Menace was like for hardcore Star Wars fan. There was so much love and anticipation. Then all of the money and energy was spent to make a product that was empty inside. Pixar works so hard to always be the best possible. There is care, love, and sweat in every one of their films. This film is so lazy and so awful, it’s an embarrassment to their brand.

I don’t hate Pixar like so many people turned on George Lucas. Their other 11 films are worth watching multiple times even without the kids. The teaser trailer for next year’s Brave looks beautiful and exciting. Their Toy Story short before this movie was cute. This is just the film that is ruined a very special streak they had. I wish it was a creative misfire, instead of this soulless venture.

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