‘Cars’ sequel a lemon

By Larissa Gula

It’s a sad day when a Pixar movie disappoints. “Cars 2”

Starring: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine

Director: John Lasseter and Brad Lewis

Studio: Disney/Pixar

Grade: C

It’s a sad day when a Pixar movie disappoints.

Disney/Pixar’s newest film, “Cars 2,” celebrates Pixar’s 25th year of animation. Unfortunately, it seems the studio forgot some things about what it takes to make a good sequel.

“Cars 2” begins in the middle of the Pacific Ocean as spy car Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) begins to gather information on a vague — but obviously dastardly — plot that appears to be organized by villainous Professor Zündapp (Thomas Kretschmann).

Cut to Radiator Springs, where Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) still lives with his friends, including Mater the tow truck (Larry the Cable Guy), during his offseason from racing. After another car, Francesco Bernoullii baits him to travel to and race in the World Grand Prix, McQueen begins to fight with Mater, whose redneck habits embarrass him. Then, following a series of coincidences, Mater is mistaken for a secret agent who’s supposed to meet with McMissile.

The entire film becomes an action-packed series of Mater-driven shenanigans filled with explosions and jokes, meant to convey a message about being yourself and cherishing your friends. Too bad it doesn’t work.

Remember the first film, where McQueen was forced to slow down in a small town? The film had a relaxed atmosphere, with developed and realistic characters who told a relatable story. It wasn’t perfect — some critics complained that the first film was too slow — but it was still enjoyable.

The sequel overcompensates— it’s too fast. Character development and tension got torn out because there’s no time for anything to develop, and the story drags audiences along without time to fully enjoy the jokes. And the action almost completely hides the message the movie tries to deliver.

Worse, the fast-paced drive of this film completely undermines the point of the original — slowing down. Pixar doesn’t take the time to combine the best of both worlds to create an interesting, fun sequel with some emotional depth. Instead, it makes  “Cars 2” pure action.

As an added blow, most of the old characters (minus Mater) feel hollow during their 10 minutes of screen time. Mentor Doc Hudson, voiced in the first film by Paul Newman, disappears completely after the actor’s death, and with him goes one of the strongest characters. The others, including McQueen, receive the same kind of treatment, with lazy voice acting and poor characterization failing to add familiarity to what already feels like a brand new world.

Both best and worst of all, the film begins with a traditional short story clip about the characters from “Toy Story” following the conclusion of the third film. It coaxes a smile out of fans while also delivering a punch in the gut, as Pixar reminds audiences that it has made sequels that surpassed their predecessors.

Perhaps one of the only saving graces in this film is Michael Caine’s voice-acting and the new characters, which distract from the various disasters going on elsewhere. In addition, the animation impresses and creates a decent atmosphere by capturing the excitement of traveling the “Cars 2” world, the elation of flying through the air and, occasionally, the suspense from the nefarious plot that’s afoot as bullets and explosions threaten Mater and the spy cars..

Still, the animation cannot repair the damage done to this established franchise. Frankly, Pixar should have made this story into a film independent of “Cars.” As is, it completely ignores the themes of the first film and accordingly — aside from the familiar characters — barely feels like an actual sequel.

While it has its moments, “Cars 2” turns so far away from its predecessor that it’s almost unrecognizable. In the end, it’s just an immature film which deviates from Pixar’s style of appealing to both children and adults. Better luck next summer, Pixar.