It’s easy to forget after its tear-jerking meditations on mortality and obsolescence that Pixar makes movies for kids.
Cars 2 redresses the balance by rewarding the demographic who made the 2006 original Pixar’s most profitable property, at least in terms of merchandise revenue.
Manna for those with a boys toys mindset, the sequel is equal parts petrolhead pedal-flooring, Bond-esque spy games and goofy slapstick. Yet with its confused plot and perpetual sugar-rush visuals, it’s also liable to induce a headache.
The espionage stuff works best. Half the fun of watching a 007 movie comes from the chases, so there’s plenty of mileage in setting an action thriller within the existing Cars universe. The opening set-piece is exhilarating and Michael Caine a suave choice for the voice of superspy Finn McMissile.
Where the film falters is in the contractual obligation to yoke the original cast into the plot, which leaves Owen Wilson’s Lightning McQueen driving around in a circus, and forces Larry the Cable Guy’s tow truck Mater into the spotlight to replicate the first film’s fish-out-of-water premise.
By Pixar’s standards, this is light and disposable. Presented in tandem with a similarly charming but functional Toy Story short ‘Hawaiian Holiday,’ Cars 2 suggests a studio coasting on its rep while their rivals are raising their game.
By taking the scenic route, the champion of animation risks losing pole position.