No film studio in recent memory has come close to matching Pixar's record of exceptional storytelling. Even the less well-received Cars has a powerful story at its core, so there was every reason to expect that Cars 2 would at least match the quality of its predecessor. While Pixar's latest offering exceeds the first Cars in inventiveness and thrills, it lacks the original's emotional punch.
Race car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is looking forward to some R&R in Radiator Springs when his best friend, tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), talks him into racing in the first World Grand Prix. Sponsored by ultra-wealthy Sir Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard), the race requires all contestants to use a new, alternative fuel Axlerod has developed.
A mysterious villain threatens the success of the race and the new fuel, and British intelligence agent Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and his associate Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) are working feverishly to uncover the plot, with the help of an American secret agent they mistakenly believe to be Mater.
Though the film includes a fair amount of gags, Cars 2 is more an animated James Bond film, with all the explosions, peril, gadgets, gunfire, and-of course-car chases that entails. Even the film's opening is classic Bond as McMissile follows a lead to an enemy oil rig in an over-the-top action-packed sequence that's only missing a secret agent walking (or driving) across the screen though the sights of an assassin's gun barrel.
Considering that Cars 2 is at least as violent as The Incredibles, which earned a PG rating, it is surprising that the MPAA chose not to give the film a more mature rating than G.
While Cars 2 hits a few solid notes, it lacks the strong emotional chords of its predecessors that would tie the audience to the story. Though as exciting as a Bond film, it is about as emotionally deep.