The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - Cars 2: The Spoilerish Review
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Cars 2: The Spoilerish Review|
I can tell you one thing about Cars 2 that will tell you instantly whether you'll like it or not:
Cars 2 is Tow Mater fanfic. Where Mater is the biggest Mary Sue in the history of Suedom.
Now, that's going to be bad for a lot of people, since Larry the Cable Guy's rendition of Tow Mater as the countrified, well-meaning, boorish good-ol'-boy wasn't for everyone, not even in the original Cars. But in the sequel, Tow Mater's character arc consists of "Gosh, Tow Mater sure is a great guy" to "Tow Mater is even more awesome," with a brief skimming over "maybe Tow Mater isn't as awesome as he thinks he is!" before it's solved by a healthy does of "Tow Mater, your problem is that you're just not being enough Tow Mater!"
The problem with Tow Mater is that he's clueless. And it's very hard to be emotionally invested in a character who literally has no idea what's going on - especially in what is, ostensibly, an action film. He spends the first half of the movie bumbling about, not even realizing he is a spy or what he's fighting for - you remember how much everyone loved Jar-Jar Binks? Well, here's Mater in a rust-covered Hee-Haw outfit, doing the Binks. And while it's arguably fun to watch if you're a kid, you don't really feel bad for Tow Mater beyond a certain surface "awww" when he makes the sad-face.
This actually winds up giving a rather wretched lesson for the kids. The final lesson for Tow Mater is that he just needs to be proud of all his quirks. And the final lesson for Lightning McQueen is that he's a douche for telling Tow Mater to go away after Tow's goaded him into a race, embarrassed him in front of a crowd, blurted out to Lightning's worst enemy that McQueen's girlfriend has a total crush on him, and then won't shut up over an open communication line and actually loses McQueen the race that Mater got him involved in.
Check this: Lightning's the one who needs to apologize.
In short, Tow Mater's self-involved and clumsy, hurting those around him. Yet the lesson of this movie is not, perhaps, that Tow Mater needs to fucking listen when people are trying to warn him about something, but rather that his friends should learn to deal with him. Can you tell the Pixar kids are nerds? Because the lesson is that no matter how personally hurtful or inconsiderate your best friend is, you should celebrate his oafishness because man, it'd be just mean to tell a guy who's continually farting around your friends that maybe he should bathe.
And in the end, Tow Mater is faster than Lightning McQueen, has a hotter girlfriend, is a super-spy, and beloved by the whole world. I'm not kidding. Tow Marysue. So if you thought Tow Mater was the hottest thing on wheels, well, here's a buckshot load of butt-humor for you.
The shame is that the movie flirts with the lesson that Tow Mater needs to learn - there's a dream sequence which isn't so much a dream sequence as Tow Mater reliving scenes that we saw earlier in the film. For a moment, it looks as though Tow Mater might have the realization that people don't take him seriously because he ignores what they're saying and rushes to conclusions. But in the end, the lesson is that Tow Mater needs to rely upon his instincts, foisted on us by his unfoiling of a ridiculously elaborate oil-swindling scheme that frankly, I didn't buy.
Now, there are a ton of other issues with Cars 2, mainly in the emotional connection. Cars was arguably the weakest of the Pixar films from an emotional standpoint, because the entire climax of the movie hinged upon Lightning McQueen leaving town to go to the race! Oh my God! Except Lightning could, you know, go back to town after he won the race - which is (spoilers!) precisely what he did. Or bring his friends from town to the race, which is kind of what happened. So the Cars series has a history of not-really-emotionally involving storylines, but they're simple enough for kids to follow.
Cars 2, however, feels half-baked. There are all these races, but there's nothing really at stake beyond a little pride - even Lightning McQueen didn't want to be involved until Tow Mater was angry about it. Pixar's been the genius thus far of having scenes carry out two, three, even four purposes at once, cramming emotion and action and information into these spectacularly tightly-written gems... But Cars 2 has a number of nothing-but-exposition scenes where the plot is advanced by three cars talking at each other, explaining the next move in the spy game. It's just dry and dull, sometimes.
Cars 2 is not a bad movie. Rated without the outrage of "This is a Pixar film and I expected better!", it's a 72% - a gentleman's C. If Dreamworks had put it out, it'd be a forgettable Dreamworks movie. As it is, what we have is the first major stumble in Pixar history - and I went because I wanted to be proven wrong. I wasn't to believe. But I couldn't. Alas.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/121456.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
|Date:||June 24th, 2011 10:51 pm (UTC)|| |
... so it's a rotten tow-mater?
I have Pixar-related ESP, this is sort of EXACTLY what I expected from this movie, and, accordingly, planned not to see it unless I heard stellar reviews from people I trust. My response to the first previews was "Really. This is what you, got, worst Pixar ever and THAT's what you're"
I will probably watch it in a year or two on the Disney Channel, while doing chores and possibly reading.
Now that Dreamworks is making decent movies (The Nostalgia Chick has a VERY good 2-parter on Disney vs. Dreamorks), Pixar better step it up. The Brave had better be awesome, is all I can say.
I've said, and I think I'm paraphrasing someone AT Pixar, that they make grown-up movies that are acceptable for kids. But Cars is moostly for 4-7 year old boys. There's nothing wrong with that, but I think the demographic is served fine without Pixar's help.
Part of me thinks that Cars 2 is supposed to help cushion any risks involved with Brave by making it look better by comparison, but the rest of me thinks it's just clinging to denial that Pixar would stumble so badly.
|Date:||June 24th, 2011 11:04 pm (UTC)|| |
I'm also told (via people who are friends with Pixar people) that Disney basically forced Cars 2 to be made because it made big bank in licensed products, especially relative the more recent Up, WALL-E and Ratatouille. Don't know if that's true, but if so that might explain a lot.
|Date:||June 24th, 2011 11:47 pm (UTC)|| |
Like I said, I have a 5 yr old, and I don't think that he has a single male friend who does not own at least three Cars things. It's the absolute equivalent of the Disney Princesses. And the "passport" for Cars 2 - for kids to get stamped as they buy crap - was out a month ago.
H&M had Cars shirts!!!
The one that got me recently was walking into a Williams-Sonoma and finding Cars cake molds and cookie cutters.
My favorite was the Cars 2 gardening tools. I was like, "...what?"
Gardening tools? Really? That's just weird.
|Date:||June 26th, 2011 05:18 am (UTC)|| |
The Cars 2 branded Sorry Sliders game which is a racetrack like Pitchcar is supposed to be pretty good though.
That's because Sorry! Sliders is a good game with or without the branding.
|Date:||June 24th, 2011 11:44 pm (UTC)|| |
All I know is I have a 5 year old boy, have memorized the first one via osmosis, and I predict this will be the same. The merchandising is in.sane.
Have you thought about cutting for spoilers for those who were looking forward to seeing it? Note tense.
Sorry. However, a) it does say "The Spoilerish Review," and b) I honestly don't think it's that spoilerish, aside from revealing what does not happen to Tow Mater. On a scale of 1 (no spoilers) to 10 (Game of Thrones had what?), I think it's a 3 at best.
Didn't see the first one, not planning on seeing this one, especially after your review.
I was a little shocked by what Howard Tayler had to say. Did you note the same thing he did?
I did, but didn't want to get into that. It's kind of a wash; there's one really nice lemon at the beginning, and Mater tries, so I'm not sure what lesson kids come away with.
|Date:||June 25th, 2011 01:07 am (UTC)|| |
Also, maybe I'm sensitive to this sort of thing, but I thought it was ridiculously violent for a movie where their target market (when it comes to buying all the crappy toys) is preschool boys.
I lost track of the number of "I'm going to KILL YOU"s. It bugged me.
And the number of sentient beings actually, you know, fucking killed. Violently.
|Date:||June 25th, 2011 01:21 am (UTC)|| |
Does every Pixar movie have to be deep, though? These movies are supposed to be for little kids. Maybe having a bunch of cute cars is enough.
They don't have to be deep to be good, or good to be deep. In the past, they've been both good and moderately deep. Here, they are neither.
Maybe. Im just saying little kids might not be as picky. I know my neice (7) wont give a shit, she just likes talking cars.
They won't be. And that's fine. Teletubbies make money. The Land Before Time Part #15 makes money.
But they don't make Pixar money.
You know, I sort of figured this was going to happen when I happily saw that the latest collection of Pixar shorts was on TV and HALF OF THEM WERE ABOUT MATER. And for all of my love of the campy True Blood South, I can't STAND Larry the Cable Guy or Mater. I spent the entire thing sort of cringing and muting between the other superior shorts.
Yes, but what will a panel of 5 year old movie critics think after seeing it 40 times, possibly in a row? ( http://www.theonion.com/articles/5yearold-critics-agree-movie-cars-only-gets-better,19861/
My housemates' son used to watch Cars every single day, and the dvd wore out, so they TiVo'd it off of the Disney channel, and he watched it so many times that 2 years later I still remember some of the ads, especially the one for the episode of Wizards of Waverly Place where they meet Harper from the future. Eventually, I went out and bought a new Cars dvd to avoid having to watch those ads, and since then, I've been happy watching Cars and not seeing a commercial for Hannah Montana where I expect one to appear.
I thought the first one was okay, but I don't really plan on seeing this one in any context where I would have to spend money on it. However, I am loyal to Pixar, so I will probably borrow it from someone later on. The Cars franchise is the only thing from Pixar I haven't totally loved.
Honestly, I think Cars is a movie that you'll like if you're... into cars. Roger Ebert's intro paragraph about playing with cars as a child, making them talk, etc, is what I think they were going for. You don't question why talking machines (looking at you, my beloved Transformers--and don't say they used earth vehicles merely as disguises, if I remember correctly Optimus Prime transformed into some kind of alien vehicle back when he lived on his home planet, haha) have doors or security locks or whatever--because it's all so damn shiny and cool!
But yeah, I don't plan on seeing it. It just isn't my style...
If you discount it as a "lesson" movie for kids, and just enjoy it, it's not half bad. The bumbling idiot who succeeds meme reminds me of good old Pink Panther movies and Mr. Bean. Nobody expects them to learn anything or wise up. Of course, I agree that Lightning shouldn't have to apologize. In the real world, people who are annoying idiots don't have many friends.