After 16 years of producing the most lauded animation in the film industry, Pixar has earned the blind trust of critics and audiences alike. This is why the horrible, thoughtless cash grab of Cars 2 seems like such a betrayal. It’s like finding out your favorite uncle secretly enjoys kicking puppies.
The plot, such as it is, revolves around the antics of Cars’ country-fried sidekick, Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy: Witless Protection), who was at best irritating in the first film. This time around, Mater is riding high on the success of his BFF, racecar Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson: Midnight in Paris).
Lightning prepares to race in the World Grand Prix, competing in Japan, Italy and London for the title of fastest car in the world. The race is to promote a new organic fuel that would eliminate the need for petroleum. As best friend to the real talent, Mater invites himself along. It’s not that he’s there to help; he’s just there for support.
In Japan, Mater’s idiocy gets him confused with an American spy car. The reasoning: No one could be as stupid as Mater, so it must be a brilliant act. Finn McMissile (Michael Caine: Gnomeo and Juliet) asks Mater to assist the British in discovering who is tampering with the race and the new organic fuel. Hilarious antics ensue.
Or they would, if this movie cared about anything other than selling more toys to children. It doesn’t. The entirety is a brightly colored commercial for Disney and Pixar’s newest line of Cars toys, and not an especially enjoyable one.
The biggest misstep is moving Mater to center stage. Mater is the stupid tow truck that couldn’t, and the filmmakers seem to enjoy linking his stupidity with his Dixie heritage. Mater loudly twangs thru kabuki performances, drinks out of a beer-hat (with oil cans substituting for Budweiser) while watching races, farts exhaust as he talks to ladies and ruins any event he attends with his loud, obnoxious, redneck ways.
The stereotypes don’t end in the South. Cars 2 seems to have hate to spare for all ethnicities. Lightning’s rival racer Francesco (John Turtorro: Transformers) does everything but exclaim That’s a-spicy meatball! before he races. The Japanese are a whirl of Sanro-inspired colors and sushi chefs. The evil German cars try to eliminate Mater by gassing him, but it’s hard to blame them for feeling murderous toward the tow truck. Only the British seem to retain a level of cool, and that’s mostly due to Caine’s witty vocal stylings.
Almost as disturbing as the rampant ethnic stereotyping is the message of the film: It’s okay if you’re ignorant and annoying. Other people should conform their cultures to suit you. Mater’s crass behavior is unacceptable, and it’s baffling that every other character suffers this distasteful fool.
In truth, Cars 2 isn’t an unusual disaster; plenty of animated films are derivative and feature pointless and offensive characters. What makes this one unforgivable is that its production company, Pixar, has produced some of cinema’s greatest animated tales in the last decade.
Disney and Pixar should know better than to roll out this country-fried lemon of a movie and expect its loyal fans to pay a 3D premium. The sooner they Git-R-Gone from theaters, the better.