Cars 2 managed to stun the world earlier this year, and fans of the franchise certainly never saw this one coming. As I’m sure you well know, it did so by becoming the first Pixar movie to get a fair amount of critical bashing, ultimately resulting in, among other things, a RottenTomatoes Meter score of 38% Fresh.
If you’ve read my review (reprinted below), you’ll already know that I think the unkind reviews (by critics and audiences alike) are largely misguided, even if they are understandable in some sense. In fact, they seem more a result of grading by way of what “we” expect and want Pixar films to do, rather than on the merits of what they did.
At any rate, the Blu-Ray is now available, and those fans who didn’t complain about the film itself are rather apt to have found their outlet for Pixar disapproval.
I should say at first that the film looks amazing on Blu-Ray, although this isn’t surprising. It’s a showpiece for Blu-Ray clarity and sharpness, and will likely show on the screens of those trying to sell Blu-Ray players throughout the holiday season.
On the other hand, where Pixar lost a few people by switching up its plot guidelines, and by going after goals other than family-friendly, moral-heavy fare, it is likewise going to raise a few eyebrows by not following the tradition of providing a nice load of bonus features on its home releases.
Since Blu-Rays have been around, with their “bonus” price tags, studios have been trying to push consumers toward the medium by offering Blu-Ray releases packed with special features that aren’t available on the standard DVD release. Much to the chagrin of many vocal purchasers and fans.
Pixar has upped that game a bit by offering bonuses that are only available with the 3D package, and not on the “normal” Blu-Ray, which only contains the animated shorts – Air Mater and Toy Story Toons Hawaiian Vacation – and a director’s commentary. Not only are these the same features available on the standard DVD, but for many a home release fan, this is only the very tiniest step up from not having any special features at all.
Now, the commentary with John Lasseter is actually very cool, and well worth checking out. He knows his films, and this is a commentary that is much more of a treat than most, especially because he goes into the spy caper genre a bit, and gives a lot of background on how things came together. The animated shorts aren’t bad either. Hawaiian Vacation played at the theatrical release, and Air Mater gives another chance to shine to the little rust bucket that could.
Still, Pixar fans are not going to be especially pleased with the decidedly bare release.
Check out more info, a clip, other goodies, and the film review below.
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of Pixar Animation Studios, the high octane in-home release invites families and fans of all ages to come along on a journey around the world with the #1 animated film of the year and introduces an exclusive all-new animated short “Air Mater,” featuring the fan favorite character spinning his tales in an exciting adventure high above Radiator Springs. The must-own animated release also includes fascinating commentary from award-winning director John Lasseter and “Hawaiian Vacation,” the delightful animated short that accompanied the film in theatres.
The immersive “Cars 2” bonus features include an one-of-a-kind interactive “World Tour” map that takes viewers through nine different locations, including those featured in the film and more. A global thrill-ride, it allows viewers to go behind-the-scenes with the Pixar artists and filmmakers as they circle the globe finding inspiration for the most international of all Pixar films to date. “Cars 2” is also the first Pixar film to be released in spectacular Blu-ray 3D.
Academy Award®-winning filmmaker John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, returns to the driver’s seat as director. “Cars 2” is produced by visual effects industry veteran Denise Ream (associate producer, “Up”; visual effects executive producer, “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith”). Oscar®-winning composer Michael Giacchino (“The Incredibles,” “Up”) provides the electrifying score with a surf-rock-meets-spy-thriller flavor and a variety of global accents, evoking a sense of thrills, mystery and emotion. Brad Paisley, Robbie Williams, Weezer, French singer Bénabar and Japanese girl band Perfume lend their diverse musical talents to the film’s soundtrack.
The film features an all-star vocal cast including Owen Wilson who reprises his role as hotshot racecar Lightning McQueen. Larry the Cable Guy provides the voice of Mater (proprietor of Tow Mater Towing and Salvage), Lightning McQueen’s best friend and the heart and soul of Radiator Springs.
Bonnie Hunt is back as Sally, the baby-blue Porsche 911 Carrera whose motor races for Lightning. Acclaimed actor Michael Caine makes his Pixar debut as Finn McMissile, a top British spy who mistakes Mater for an undercover American agent with a genius disguise. Emily Mortimer brings charm, cleverness and cachet as Holley Shiftwell, a rookie field spy who knows every trick in the manual. Versatile actor John Turturro gives a free-wheeling performance as Francesco Bernoulli, the world-renowned Italian racing champ who is Lightning’s chief rival. Tony Shalhoub, Joe Mantegna, Peter Jacobson, Jason Isaacs, Eddie Izzard, Paul Dooley, Cheech Marin, John Ratzenberger, Franco Nero and Vanessa Redgrave also lend their vocal talents. Real-life Formula 1 racing champ Lewis Hamilton and NASCAR racer Jeff Gordon add a touch of authenticity with their cameos in the film.
Stunning the world, Cars 2 has not had critical praise heaped upon it, but those who make the trip to theaters may find themselves at a loss as to why, and as much as critics raise their noses, audiences will enjoy the ride.
Clearly a different undertaking for Pixar, and without all that much actual connection to the first film, Cars 2 is still a lot of fun, and has its own nostalgic push. Cars may have played on the general love of… well, cars, and the old school theory of highways, racing, and even road pictures to some extent, but Cars 2 also has its displays of a certain honor toward days gone by, even if a good, old spy picture isn’t what we may have expected.
This one opens with British spy Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) following up on the investigation of another agent who reported some very nefarious things afoot, but couldn’t manage to get out a lot of details. Finn tracks his location to a slew of oil rigs out in the middle of the ocean, and barely escapes with his life to tell the tale.
Speaking of oil, Sir Miles Axelrod, oil tycoon and industrialist, has seen the light after a harrowing experience in the jungle, and has created a new biofuel. To promote its use, he is putting on the first ever World Grand Prix, which will consist of three races, showcasing the world’s fastest cars running only on said biofuel.
Lightning McQueen, back in Radiator Springs after winning his fourth Piston Cup, finds himself roped into the World Grand Prix when Mater calls the television show announcing the event. Italian superstar racer Fracesco Bernoulli, mocks McQueen, and Mater calls in to give his two cents. Ultimately, the race is on.
Our plot moves into the fast lane when Lightning and Mater attend a kick-off party for the race, which happens to be the cover event our spies have chosen to make a drop off. An unknown American agent is supposed to deliver some incriminating evidence to Finn McMissile. Unfortunately, several of the cars that were on the oil rig are in attendance, so Finn can’t show his face. Another agent, Holly Shiftwell, who tries to duck the job in standard “I’m not a field agent” fashion, has to run the meet.
As luck would have it, our American agent plans to meet in the gents, but the bad guys are already on his tail. Mater shows up, is clearly American, and the game is afoot.
The rest of the film follows a dastardly plot to ruin the reputation of biofuel by destroying the cars running in the race, and the general, and fairly obvious, goofs surrounding Mater being caught up in the world of superspy cars. The main subplot revolves around Lightning finding himself in the world of fancy cars, and being embarrassed by his hillbilly best friend.
Though it lacks a certain depth we may expect from Pixar, and focuses too much on having jillions of characters, instead of getting any real value out of the ones it has, the film still delivers a lot of fun. The real problem is that, varied as they are, Pixar films are all of the same genre, if we use the word a bit loosely. They are fun, funny, and usually more than a little magical, but these are all balanced against the exposition of some grand ideal. They work simply as wonderful entertainment, but there is a moral to the story.
Cars 2 has nothing to offer in the moral department, unless it has to do with the subplot, and is of the “don’t be ashamed of your hillbilly friends” variety. It just isn’t that sort of story, in much the same way as Bond films don’t have long, weepy moments with songs designed to lift the drama playing over them.
On the other hand, it’s still a clever adventure with some good gags thrown in, and a lot of cool car-spy-tech. Pixar may have run into its first stumbling block here, but it’s probably a result of mishandled expectations far more than any real negatives that apply to the film itself. Since Toy Story, Pixar films have, brilliant as they have been, given us stories from a certain mold, and it isn’t one that matches up well with something that is simply a good, old spy caper.
I have to admit that this isn’t close to the top of the Pixar list, but Pixar‘s lesser efforts are still better than most animated films, and the kids will love it.