'Cars 2': The Reviews Are In!

Critics enjoy the visual ride but not much else about Pixar's latest.

Animated films, much like the big-screen work of Adam Sandler, are so often review-proof. "Hop" didn't give a hoot that critics eviscerated the Easter Bunny tale, opening to $37.5 million domestically on its way to a $176.8 million worldwide total. And hey, "Grown Ups" and "Just Go With It" were two of the most savagely critiqued comedies in recent memory, yet each one deposited a couple hundred million dollars in Sandler's already astonishing box-office pot of gold.

So does it really matter that critics have flagged "Cars 2," Pixar's latest offering and its first sequel outside the "Toy Story" franchise, for a dizzying array of cinematic violations? Nope. The CGI flick is poised to race away with around $65 million this weekend. Kids, and the parents who hold their hands on the way to the theater, will be leading the charge. And they won't care at all that reviewers have harrumphed at the convoluted storytelling, because they'll be too busy gawking at what even critics admit are top-notch visuals.

But if you're old enough to read this, perhaps you might care. And thus we present a deep dive into the "Cars 2" reviews:

The Story

"Who decided to make Larry the Cable Guy the star? I don't know, but his Mater, the dopey, good-hearted tow truck from the first 'Cars,' is the focus of the sequel, which is sort of like basing a fourth 'Toy Story' on Slinky Dog. The star of 'Witless Protection,' among other delights, can only carry a film so far. This time out, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is goaded, with Mater's help, into entering the World Grand Prix to face the cocky Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro). ... Mater somehow gets himself involved in international espionage. Someone is trying to sabotage the Grand Prix, and spies Finn McMissle (Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) are trying to figure out who and why. Mistaking Mater for a fellow spy -- the idiot act is flawless, Finn tells him -- Mater is soon wearing disguises and working undercover, haplessly bumbling his way to success." -- Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic

The Storytelling

" 'Cars 2' plays out like two scripts that have been stapled together. Scenes from one script alternate with scenes from the other, and there are separate batches of characters in the U.S., Italy and England, most of whom don't have much to do (every movie could use more of Bonnie Hunt, who voices Lightning's girlfriend, but that's especially true of this movie). The testing of the Mater/Lightning friendship has charm and gives 'Cars 2' what heart it has, but the film spends most of its time on the spy plot, which is not terribly involving." -- Chris Hewitt, St. Paul Pioneer Press

The Visuals

"Every frame is rendered so beautifully you wish you could pause it: the uncanny wetness of the ocean waves as Finn performs a daring oil-rig maneuver; the glowing lights of nighttime Paris; the sparkling sunshine on Corsica streets as cars zoom through; the gentle gray mists of London. (Note, though, that the 3-D effects are very subtle; my guess is that you wouldn't miss a thing by seeing this movie in 2-D.)" -- Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times

The Missteps

"The tone and emphasis of 'Cars 2' veers off course from the start. Too many guns, for one thing. The whole thing is too weapons-dependent to be charming. There's plenty to watch here, and preteens who found the first 'Cars' a bit pokey won't have the same reaction to this frenetic, globe-trotting follow-up. But I got little pleasure from seeing these cars (plus boats, and a plane) thrown into the spy thriller genre. It's an intriguing story risk at best, a protracted stunt at worst. The greatest Pixar films have sampled, free-form, an unpredictable variety of moods and styles. Here the mash-ups refuse to jell, and even Michael Giacchino's score sounds like someone less talented than Michael Giacchino composed it." -- Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

The Final Word

" 'Cars 2' is probably the slightest of Pixar's films -- it sort of plays like an espionage-driven episode of the '60s 'Speed Racer' cartoon, only with the Mach 5 doing all the talking in a universe eerily devoid of humans. But if it's going to be diet Pixar, at least it's action-packed diet Pixar -- with overwhelming, detail-choked production design that occasionally had my jaw lowering like a forklift." -- Michael Russell, Oregonian

Check out everything we've got on "Cars 2."

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