Pixar Review 31: Brave

braveAre you ready to test your fate?

Let’s talk a little Brave. This is Pixar’s attempt to enter the princess movie and their first movie with a female protagonist (and until Inside Out only).

I’ll say it right from beginning Brave is my least favorite Pixar film.  That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it.  I do.  I like all the Pixar films but the problem with Brave is it doesn’t deliver the type of story it promises to tell.  My next lowest Cars 2, flaws and all, is actually consistent from frame 1 a spy movie and stays very close to the genre throughout.  Brave promises an epic legend and in the end we kind of get a nursery rhyme style fable (like an Aesops Fable).

I love the way Brave starts out.  We see the Princess Merida independent and free spirited out climbing mountains and touching the sky.

As a fellow curly haired girl I love Merida’s look and her hair!  It’s gorgeous.  You don’t see curly haired heroines often and I love hers!

brave9Much like Little Mermaid Merida is angry with her parental figure and seeks something greater than the confines of the life they have planned for her.  If you haven’t gathered from the blog this is a character archetype I relate too very strongly as I always wanted to do things my own way and be my own person.  This is why I loved Ariel and Belle

Merida’s main source of conflict comes with her Mother Elinor (voiced by the great Emma Thompson) who wants her to take her responsibilities as princess and future queen seriously.  They fight and argue, neither listening to each other at all. I think nearly all girls I know can relate to this dynamic with their mother.

"BRAVE" (L-R) MERIDA and QUEEN ELINOR. ©2012 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.Elinor decides to force her daughter to participate in a Highland Games that will decide her betrothal to one of 3 idiots.  I do really like that they do not make one of the suitors a possible love interest.  That would have been such a cop out.

But Merida decides she will shoot for her own hand in a both prideful and desperate attempt to change her fate (can you blame her for not wanting to marry one of these guys?).

Well, her Mother and her fight after this display and embarrassment (I like that both Mother and Daughter are at fault here).  In frustration Merida swipes a sword through her mothers tapestry with her family and storms off into the forest.

brave22As she races in the forest her horse throws her and she ends up at a cottage with a goofy witch.

brave211In Merida’s defense the witch does look harmless enough and is actually a pretty funny character.  In some ways she’s a little bit like Ursula although much less developed and memorable.  Merida asks her to change her Mom so she can change her fate.  I honestly don’t think she would ever assume her Mother would be turned into a bear or hurt physically in any way.  She wants her Mother to all the sudden be accepting of her life choices and not make her go through with the betrothal, which at the moment is her fate.

brave23The witch warns her about tempting fate but she does anyway and gets a cake to give to her Mother.  She eats it as do her troublemaker triplet brothers.

All of them get turned into bears and that’s where Brave starts to lose me.  Like I said before it goes from being epic in feel, a legend, to being a nursery rhyme about a woman turned into a bear.  One might say it goes from being very grand and big to being small.  I still think it is watchable.  It’s certainly a million times better than Brother Bear which has an oddly similar story.

brave13Merida goes back to the witch to find out what they must do and are told they have 2 days to break the spell or Elinor will remain a bear.  To break it “fate be changed mend the bond torn by pride”.  So that’s pretty much the rest of the movie.  Elinor and Merida learning to respect each other.

But even that would be fine but the tone varies greatly between slapstick with the brothers who are also bears, pretty scary scenes with the bear Mor’du and sentimental scenes of Merida fishing with her Mom.   Small children may be scared by the Mor’du.  I know one of my nieces had to be taken out when I took them to see Brave. It’s very realistically done.

brave12The animation throughout Brave is stunning.  Whether it is the fierce bear Mor’du or the grand vistas of Scotland it looks so beautiful.

Disney's Brave

brave15

The voice acting is great in Brave with Kelly MacDonald a striking Merida, Thompson as Elinor, Billy Connolly as King Fergus, Julie Walters as The Witch and Robbie Coltrane, Craig Ferguson, and John Ratzenberger all contributing talent.  The music by Patrick Doyle is some of Pixar’s best.

I also love the songs by Mumford and Sons and Julie Fowlis.

I do also love the core message about family and mending those bonds no matter how different we might see.  I like the resolution and that it doesn’t involve meeting a man or being rescued.  There also aren’t that many movies that explore the relationship between a Mother and a Daughter especially in animation and I think many girls can relate to the generational and communication gap between Merida and Elinor.  I certainly can and felt many of those same feelings when I was Merida’s age towards my Mother (who was a near perfect Mother).  Most girls I know want to do their own thing.  They want to create their own fate not have it decided for them by anyone else.

All of that works in Brave.  It just feels disappointing because of what we expected to receive from the introduction.  Not the epic quest we were hoping for.   I do like the ending with Pixar pulling off the emotional scene very well as they always do.

Another problem I think it has is a story like this usually has a central villain like an Ursula who antagonizes the heroine or shows some kind of real threat.  The witch in Brave is only briefly seen and isn’t really a villain.  We all know how Brave is going to end so without the villain it becomes kind of muddled and predictable.  Frozen also doesn’t have a central villain until very late in the game but to me at least that works much better because you have other unpredictable elements like 2 princesses and an ending which again for me really worked.  Plus, Frozen is a musical which is a favorite genre of mine and much better comic relief in Olaf.

brave2So for me Brave is a missed opportunity.  A lot of the problem probably comes down to the change in directors midway through from Brenda Chapman to Mark Andrews and the other issues they had making the movie.   It’s not bad.  In fact, I enjoy watching it but it could have been a real masterpiece.

They never will but I would love for them to go back to the world of Brave and give us a true legend.  I want battles and a wicked Queen out to take Merida’s thrown.  That’s the kind of legend we were promised (especially in the trailers) for Brave but we didn’t get.

Still definitely worth a watch.

Overall Grade- C  Not bad Pixar considering this is the lowest grade I will give one of your movies.

Also a lot of people were very upset that Wreck-it Ralph didn’t win the Oscar.  I actually think both movies suffer from the same problems.  They don’t for me deliver what they promise in the introduction but they both have characters I really like. I also gave Wreck-it Ralph a C and I stand by that grade.   If it were me giving out the award that year I would have picked Paranorman, which is funny, creative, well paced, quite scary, with a very unique take on a bully villain.  I watched it with my friends last Halloween and it holds up very well.  I also think Pirates Band of Misfits is great, but that’s just me!

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A Note on “Fun” Movies

What do you think is fun?  Aside from watching animated films, I think every reader to this blog would have a different answer to that question. And yet why do we assume that everyone will think the same movies are fun? 

This years seems to be the year of “fun movies” and I must have heard 100 times “oh come on, just have fun with this movie”.  I have also caught myself saying it on videos and with blogs.

Jupiter-AscendingI’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because it seems to me fun movies are great when you enjoy them but when other people tell you to have fun and you’re not it is very annoying. 

For example, I had fun with Jupiter Ascending because it was so over-the-top.  To me it felt like a campy soap opera and I laughed but I don’t try to pretend it is a good movie.  I totally get why most people hated it.  In fact, I may have just been in a good mood that day.  At the least it is bad in ways I’d never seen before which I found entertaining.

san andreas12In contrast, San Andreas was not a fun movie for me because it didn’t show me anything new.  The special effects looked tired and were things I had seen in many other movies.  The dialogue was bad without being over the top enough soap opera silly bad (with a few exceptions).  The acting is terrible but not in an especially entertaining way.  It’s not so bad it’s good but just kind of lame.  Other people had fun with San Andreas and that’s great but how can they expect everyone to have that same experience?

jurassic world2And then there are the films I do have fun with but I don’t seem to like as much as other people.  For example, Jurassic World I thought was entertaining but I didn’t rave about it like others. I didn’t mind they liked it more than I did until I started getting flack for it.  It seemed to bother some people that I didn’t have as much fun as they did.  I find that fascinating because again I can’t think of any other activity where level of funness would matter?  I had fun.  I was entertained by it.  Why isn’t that good enough?

I know I am guilty of this as much as anyone else particularly when it comes to animation I deem ‘fun’ .  I am going to try and not do that any more.  Going to try and stick to explaining why I think it is fun and be a little less defensive if others don’t have the same experience.  I don’t think I’m terrible in that regard but I have done it and am going to try to avoid it in the future.

So let’s go have some fun at the movies!

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet

Who knows when this film will ever reach Salt Lake but in the meantime here is my blogging friend Mark’s review of The Prophet. It sounds like certain sections work better than others but worth a watch. I look forward to seeing it eventually.

Pixar Review 30: Legends of Mor’du Review

legend of morduIn these Pixar shorts reviews I have only looked at original shorts and none of the spin-offs of movies except for Mike’s New Car and that was only because I thought the audio-commentary was the cutest thing I’d ever heard.  Well, I am making another exception for The Legend of Mor’du.  I wanted to review this short because I think it is a good example of the potential of Brave and the type of story it could have told.  In this brief short we get a true legend.  The kind of story you would tell your children and they would learn a great lesson. That just isn’t the case with Brave.  I don’t think Brave is a terrible movie but I do think it fails in a lot of ways (will save most of my Brave thoughts for the review!)

legend of mordu2The Legend of Mor’du tells the story of a man with 4 sons and each has a gift- compassion, wisdom, justice and the eldest has strength.  The father decides on his deathbed to give the kingdom to all sons instead of bequeathing it to the oldest.  legend of mordu4This enrages the oldest who is not only strong but extremely prideful.  He feels his inheritance has been stolen away. He demands his claim and when they refuse the brothers turn against each other bringing the kingdom into war.

legend of mordu11The witch telling the story meets up with the Prince and offers him a chance to change his fate much like Merida is given in Brave.  And as in Brave the Prince must chose family over his own pride in order to change his fate. Like most Pixar stories family is always the most important element of life and a person’s journey (probably more so than even Disney).  But the Prince drinks the potion seeking to overthrow his brothers and he turns into a great bear named Mor’du.

legend of mordu12All he needs to do is restore the bonds with his brothers but his pride causes him to embrace the bear, defeat his brothers and fight the soldiers who of course see him as the vicious bear.

legend of mordu3The bear Mor’du slays many warriors and the armies flee the kingdom leaving it desolate and fractured.  Mor’du is left alone to wander without family to support him or people to rule over the rest of his days.  The lust for power and his wounded pride forever changed his fate and the fate of the entire kingdom.

legend of mordu14Then the witch asks her audience ‘will you tempt fate?’.

Now that is a story!  It is clear, concise, with a lesson where the character is tested and in this case fails.  There is a clear good vs evil and an epic feeling to the journey, which is necessary in this type of story.  If you think of something like Lord of the Rings Frodo is given a job to do.  He must return the ring to Mordor or the Dark Lord will find it and “cover all the lands of a second darkness”.  There is this clear battle between good and evil.  And the weaknesses of Frodo and his entire team including Gandalf and Aragorn are tested and pushed to their limit.  This makes the journey exciting and gives it an emotional heft.

Such stakes are a must for such a story.  The Legend of King Arthur is another example of this kind of epic storytelling.  Arthur wants to lead with all goodness, courage and peace. But he falls for the lady Guinevere leaving him and his high ideals vulnerable to being wounded and hurt.  Lancelot comes and he and Guinevere fall in love despite their attempts not too.  This leads to conflict and the challenge to Arthur’s vision of Camelot.

You see how such a legend needs to be a tight story with clear consequences of good vs evil?  The characters individual weakness always comes into play and often leads to tragedy (even in Lord of the Rings many are asked to pay the price for the end goal including Gollum).

The Legend of Mor’du has all of these elements and it works as the legend it is trying to be.  It is a cautionary tale about the dangers of pride and that loyalty to family is always key to our fate.

Brave attempts such a tale far less successfully and you will find out why in my next Pixar review… (quite the lead in right!).

Overall Grade- B

D23 Updates and Excitement

I’m officially so jealous of anyone who got to go to Disney’s Comicon celebration D23.  I got to experience some of the fun panels watching on periscope (thanks awesome periscopers!) and I can’t even imagine seeing them in person.  Let me try and sum up all we learned from D23.

The biggest announcement was Star Wars Land!!!  Disneyland and Disneyworld are going to expand to add whole new lands with an immersive Star Wars experience . I love Star Wars so this is so exciting.  Evidently all the park personnel and everything you see at Star Wars land will be in character and part of the Star Wars world. The land will be “14 acres each. Guests will be able to ride the Millennium Falcon, sample blue milk and hang out at the cantina”.  Sign me up!

star wars2We also found out that Space Mountain is going to be redesigned to Hyperspace Mountain Star Tours will be updated to include the Force Awakens characters.  Sounds like a Disneyland trip will be in my future!

In other Disneyland news they announced a new Toy Story land with a slinky dog roller coaster.  So far the Toy Story attractions have been amazing so this should be great.

Star Wars Movie News

Continuing on the Star Wars vein we got new information on the Rogue One movie which looks awesome.  Director Gareth Edwards has started shooting and we should get the movie next year.  It will be the first stand alone Star Wars movies and looks like it will take a darker tone about resistance fighters who are trying to steal the plans for the Death Star.

The cast looks great with  Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Riz Ahmed,  Mads Mikkelsen and Alan Tudyk.   With some Chinese action stars it could provide a really visceral feel to the action of the movie and universe which they are trying to keep as real in feel as possible.

We also got this really cool cast photo

rogue oneWe also got to see the Force Awakens young cast and Harrison Ford introducing a new poster that looked amazing.  I am so excited for that movie!!!

Harrison Ford, seen as Han Solo in new 'Star Wars'

Marvel News

Marvel of course had some big announcements at D23 the biggest are lots of info about next years Captain America Civil War.  If you don’t know this plots superheroes against each other and evidently they showed a new trailer with Black Widow and Hawkeye fighting.  I can’t wait to see this new trailer!

Kevin Feige of Marvel also announced Doctor Strange and evidently Benedict Cumberbatch spoke to the crowd from London.  I’m a huge Cumberbatch fan and don’t know anything about Dr Strange so the movie looks like a fun addition to the MCU.

Animation News
Now for the main star at D23- the animation panels and news.
From Pixar there was a panel on Finding Dory where Ed O’Neill, Ty Burrell, Kaitlin Olson and Ellen DeGeneres were all announced. We of course knew about DeGeneres and Albert  Brooks but Ty Burrell who does great voice work and Ed O’Neill are wonderful additions to the cast.

We also learned a little more about Toy Story 4. We knew it was a love story but John Lasseter elaborated it was a romance between Woody and Bo Peep who was missing in the 3rd movie.  Evidently Woody and Buzz go on an adventure to find Bo and it is very romantic.  Lasseter said:

“Each of the stories is a different genre,” Lasseter said, “and Toy Story 4 is a love story. It’s a love story between Woody and Bo Peep. Bo’s returned for Toy Story 4. Woody and Buzz head out to find Bo. It’s a very, very emotional story, and it’s very fun doing a story about [those two characters].”

It’s really true about the Toy Story movies.  Each one has a different feel and is in a different genre.

bo peep and woodyThe much talked about Coco project was officially announced by Director Lee Unkrich.  This is going to be a day of the dead story where they ask the question What if you could meet your long dead family members? (Pixar loves those what if questions!).  The only thing about it which makes me a tiny bit sad is I am sure nobody will remember Book of Life after this which was so artistically beautiful but lacked Pixar’s great storytelling.

coco

 Disney Animation News

The biggest news from Disney is their new film Gigantic which will take on the Jack and the Beanstalk story.  I believe this will be the first time Disney has retold a fairy tale they have previously animated? Fun and Fancy Free is okay but the new take on it seems very inventive.

giganticIn this version the giant is an 11 year old girl which I think could be really interesting and I love the concept art.  I think it could work really well with the current WDAS CG animation style.  Also Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez from Frozen are doing the music (Yay!).   Evidently they sang one of the songs and it was a huge hit.

Moana3

 Disney had a presentation on their upcoming film Moana and Dwayne Johnson proved his charisma once again.  They also announced all the music talent behind the film, which I am super pumped about- Lin-Manuel Miranda who wrote the The Heights and is incredible,  composer Mark Mancina (“Tarzan” “The Lion King”), and Opetaia Foa’i who is in a Polynesian band called  Te Vaka.  John Musker and Ron Clements are directing and so there is every reason to be excited about this movie (I love anything Polynesian!).   And it is so cool to see how important the project is for Johnson.

zootopia7

The last animated film they talked about is Zootopia.  We learned some interesting things about it.  First of all, that it is going to be a musical or at least have original songs which I didn’t know about.  They announced a character named Gazelle who will be played by Shakira which honestly I doesn’t do much for me but should be a good outreach to the Latino Disney fans.  I’m not a fan of her outfit which seems very slinky. I’m still a little nervous about this project but the team they’ve got is great and it’s cool to see Disney doing something different.  I’m sure it will be great.

zootopia6

Poster for 'The Jungle Book.'

The last thing I thought was cool in the footage was the response to The Jungle Book trailer.  Director Jon Favreau introduced it and I guess everyone loved it!  And then the entire cast was on stage which looked really cool.  Ben Kingsley, who voices Bagheera, said “There is a saying among actors: Never work with a child or animals. I work with a child, and I play an animal.”  I just hope they change the ending.  Fingers crossed.  It sounds like they are using some inspiration from the book and the movie so that sounds great.   I was glad to hear that it will be a musical and they will be singing Bear Necessities!

And evidently they watched a trailer for Jungle Book which I can’t wait to see.
So I know that was an insane amount of information but if you are a movie fan and especially a Disney fan you are probably eating it all up like I did.  (And there is even more but I had to stop somewhere).
What excites you the most?  I think Star Wars Land may be the biggest news because I had no idea that was coming but it is all great.  Let me know your thoughts about any of it in comments.
It’s a great time to be a movie fan and especially a Disney fan!

I’ll See You in My Dreams Review

dreamsLast night I had a bit of time and figured why not check out a movie?  For a second I thought about seeing if Fantastic Four is ‘that bad’ but just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I looked to see if there was anything else with actual good reviews I could see (I’m thinking about going out of my comfort zone and seeing The Gift but wasn’t ready yet).  Then I noticed at the cheap movie theater I’ll See You in My Dreams was playing.  This was a movie that I noticed at my local independent theater a few months ago and  I thought it looked good. Then I saw it had good reviews (94% on RT) so I figured let’s give it a shot and I’m glad I did.

In many ways I’ll See You in My Dreams is similar to Second Best Marigold Hotel with both featuring senior citizens trying to live vibrant lives.  They both explore themes of love, friendship, death and of course aging.  I liked the overall experience of Marigold a little bit better because it is more joyful and there are more characters to bounce off of, but I’ll See You in My Dreams definitely has better writing and characters.  So perhaps it would really depend on my mood?  Either way I’m glad movies are being made with an older audience in mind ( I would group Mr Holmes in that demographic as well for 2015 releases).

dreams2 I’ll See You in My Dreams stars Blythe Danner as a woman who has been alone for decades after her husband died in a car crash in 1994. But fortunately she has his life insurance and other income to live comfortably.  She also has a group of girlfriends played delightfully by June Squibb, Rhea Perlman and Mary Kay Place (I hope I have friends like that when I’m older!).

dreams6This is one of those movies I love that feels very ordinary.  It’s just about this woman’s life- her friends, losses, conversations etc.  It opens with a death that will make even the most hardened tear up but Carol doesn’t really absorb it or respond to it and that bothers her.  She also seems to be a bit of an alcoholic- medicating her loneliness with wine and other spirits.

dreams3She eventually is so lonely she starts up a friendship with Lloyd played by Martin Starr who cleans her pool.  This could have been groan inducing but it is actually a sweet friendship (and that’s it.  No romance!).  The dialogue in their scenes is particularly strong.  It felt almost like watching a good Broadway play.

dreams5He convinces Carol to go to the karaoke bar and sing and it turns out she has a great voice.  There is something a little bit sad about that, and it seems like she senses the missed opportunity which is her life.  (The movie really is quite tragic in a way).

There is also a lot of comedy with Carol going to a speed dating session and another hilarious segment when the cops pull the ladies over when they are a little bit tipsy from medical marijuana.

Then midway in the movie we meet Bill played by Sam Elliot.  He is a gold old boy Texan who is never without his unlit cigar.  Elliot is charming in the role but I never felt like him and Danner had much chemistry.  I didn’t buy her being attracted to someone like him.

dreams4But without spoiling it a tragedy does occur and I loved Carol’s interaction with her daughter played by Malin Akerman.  They did have chemistry and it was interesting Carol seemed disappointed with her daughter but it is never quite sure why.  Perhaps it is because she is single and never gave her any grandchildren? I’m not sure but I found the relationship compelling.

I'll See You In My DreamsIn many ways watching Carol reminded me a lot of my Grandma who is still with us but unable to carry on the kind of relationship we once had, which makes me sad.  I found myself feeling a little bit depressed at scenes because I miss talking to my Grandma and the way our friendship used to be.

I’ll See You in My Dreams is not a movie that will change your life but I liked spending 92 minutes with these people.  They felt like real people I could relate too and care about.  The dialogue was particularly strong from director and screenwriter Brett Haley.

This is coming out on blu-ray and Itunes soon so if you missed it I’d say it is definitely worth a rental.  Especially if you can get your Mom or Grandma together and have a movie night you will have a cry together and enjoy the film.

Also this may be the last movie I will see in current day where a character doesn’t have a cell phone but does have one of those old school answering machines.

Overall Grade- B

Content Grade- B

There is 1 f word, some vulgar language, drug use for humor, death of animal shown, and some sensuality mostly off screen.

Best of 2014 Revisited

At the beginning of the year I posted my ‘best of 2014‘ but at that point I hadn’t seen many films from 2014.   Now that it is August I have gotten through most of the releases and my best of list has changed a bit.  I still really like all of the films I picked but they have just moved to honorable mentions.   Maleficent is still my worst of 2014.  None of those have changed.

Here’s the new video I made with my updated top 11.

And most of these we’ve hashed out to death but feel free to put your comments below anyway. Just one gals opinion!

My new picks are:

11. Captain America Winter Soldier

capt 210. American Sniper

american sniper9. Interstellar

interstellar38. Lego Moviethe_lego_movie_2014-wide7. Guardians of the Galaxy

guardians of the galaxy6. Tale of Princess Kaguya

kaguya horizontal 15. The Good Lie

good lie4. Edge of Tomorrow

edge-of-tomorrow-poster-33. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-poster2. Song of the Sea

song of the sea41. Boyhood

Boyhood-poster-quad

Pixar Review 29: Cars 2

cars2-2In many ways writing my Cars 2 review feels like writing my Frozen post (which is ridiculous because Frozen is a million times better) but they both inspire such vitriol in response it is a bit intimidating to talk about.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first thing.  Cars 2 was not made to sell toys.  I’ve heard this so many places and it just isn’t true.  Cars 2 was made because director John Lasseter loved the original and had always wanted to make a spy movie.  It is so clear when you listen to the audio-commentary that he loves this movie and had a blast making it.

Pixar has always had the philosophy of ‘only do a sequel if you have an idea’.  Lasseter says in the audio commentary that he had the idea to do a spy movie, which would be completely different from the original and that excited him (which is the way Pixar likes to do things if you think about Toy Story 1, 2 and 3 they are radically different from each other).

In many ways a spy movie for kids is brilliant.  If you think about it most spy movies, the James Bond, the Mission Impossibles, even the Pink Panthers are too sexually explicit and violent for kids, especially small children under 5.  So Cars 2 does introduce them to the genre in lots of ways and I think that is very neat.

Do I think it is a flawed film?  Yes but I like watching it.  In some ways I think it is a little bit better than the original.  The first has more heart and a better message but this is brighter, more colorful and moves at a much faster pace (this last watch-through I got a little bored with Cars).

Back in my review of Planes: Fire and Rescue I said this about the Cars/Planes franchises:

“The key to the Cars or Planes movies is accepting the world upfront because it is incredibly silly.  The idea of a world completely of mechanical items like cars and planes is a stretch and it does not hold up to any kind of thoughtful analysis.  For example, why are there no robots?  If a world can somehow procreate planes, cars and trains why not robots?  They have televisions?  Also we know there is death in the car/plane world because the old Paul Newman car died after the first Cars film but if a car is given a new engine, and retooled like a hot-rod is it somehow resurrected or does it have an entirely new personality?  See I’m already down the rabbit hole on this one…”

So there you go.  The world doesn’t make sense and you just have to accept that at the outset of all the Cars/Planes movies.  This admittedly may be easier for children to do than adults but for whatever reason I am able to make that leap.

Once I accept the ridiculous world it is in, the story is kind of fun for Cars 2.  It starts out with Lightning McQueen getting challenged by an Italian car to a race in the World Grand Prix. cars2-4 This race series is promoted by a Sir Miles Axelrod to promote his alternative fuel called Allinol.  The plot with the alternative fuel does get pretty convoluted and complicated for a Cars movie but isn’t that usually the case with spy movies?

cars2-18The World Grand Prix starts in Tokyo so Mater and Lightning head abroad and Tokyo is animated beautifully with light and color we haven’t seen before in a Pixar.  I love the look of it.

cars2-9At the same time the race is happening we get introduced to a character named Finn McMissile who is first introduced to us in a great opening sequence with Finn spying on the central villains of the movie the ‘lemon cars’ (very clever I think).

I mean take a look at this scene and if you were a kid who had never seen a spy movie don’t you think you’d be pretty enthralled by it? I like it.

In Japan, McMissile mistakes Mater for an American secret agent, which our beloved tow truck is unaware.  This plot is an homage to The Man who Knew too Little or even North by Northwest with the innocent at the wrong place and wrong time.  However, the humor does get a little bit repetitive and grating at times.

cars2-8In fact, Mater starts to annoy Lightning who in anger tells him to stop bothering him and go away.  I didn’t really like seeing the arguing in such a light silly children’s movie. Luckily it doesn’t dwell on it long. Eventually, Holly Shiftwell and Finn recruit Mater to help them hunt down the lemons convinced he is actually a genius.

I really like the old school spy movie feel to the villain lemon cars.  They are a lot of fun.

cars2-6 When the race moves to London they end up putting a bomb on Mater and there is a great chase scene where Mater, the Lemons, Finn and Holly, and Lightning are all racing around London.  It’s really energetic and enjoyable to watch.

I honestly think a lot of people who criticize Cars 2 haven’t actually sat down and watched it.  They just hear the idea of Cars 2 or read some reviews and decide it’s the worst animated film ever.  With all due respect it’s just not that bad.  In fact, in many ways I think it is good.

That said, where it falls short is the humor.  I like Larry the Cable Guy, and I don’t mind Mater, but the schtick does get old in this film where it was still charming in the original.  There are so many scenes of him being the idiot and that isn’t very funny, and like I said, the arguing with Lightning isn’t fun to watch.  I liked some of the jokes about the lemon cars but you really missed the team feel of the original and perhaps got too much of Mater in this sequel.

cars2-15Another flaw might be that while I find the lemon car villains clever as an adult I don’t know if that makes sense to the small children the film is clearly aimed at?  Do children know what a lemon car is?  It’s a small nitpick however because the bad guys are clearly bad guys-monocle and all.  🙂 .

The cars are also more like Transformers in Cars 2 than the traditional cars of the original, which for the most part all had the same limitations of regular cars. In here they can transform themselves, fly, drive on water, dive under water, shoot rockets etc.  While that is entertaining, it does make it more of a Saturday morning cartoon type of entertainment than a thoughtful Pixar film.  (Also Lightning doesn’t have stickers for lights any more.  Upgraded I guess!).

cars2-3I certainly don’t want to oversell Cars 2.  The world is nutty in the Cars universe to begin with, and if they had asked me I would have said ‘Do Incredibles 2 first!’.  But Lasseter had an idea for a spy movie and what they came up with I think is entertaining.

If you haven’t seen it I challenge you to actually watch it, and decide for yourself if you hate it or like me find something to enjoy about it.  And perhaps watch it with little children- like the Minions, kids love the Cars movies.  And as great as films like Inside Out are that challenge kids, I think there is a place for films like Cars 2 that simply give them a fun time at the movies.

Overall Grade- C+