The creative minds at Pixar appear to want their characters and fans to grow up a little. Last year’s Toy Story 3 was engineered for viewers that nearly matched the age of its college-bound protagonist. Now the follow up to one of Pixar’s favorite movies for little tykes is also better suited for an older audience.
In Cars 2, the loveable tow truck Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy) takes center stage in the plot after he unwittingly becomes involved in a ring of secret agents. These operatives are trying to crack a case of international espionage involving big oil and an alternative fuel source.
It all begins when the adventuring SUV Miles Axlerod (voice of Eddie Izzard) decides he’s finished with fossil fuels and instead wants to promote a new energy choice at a three race match taking place in Japan, Italy and England. He immediately seizes the attention of the self-confident Francesco Bernoulli (voice of John Turturro), an Italian racecar overflowing with suave style. The Formula car’s boasting on television about being faster than Lightning McQueen is too much for Mater to take. Determined to drag his best buddy into the competition, he gets McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) to agree to the challenge. (It really doesnt take much persuading!) Soon the old Lightening crew is ready to head for foreign lands, with Mater in tow.
However, the red coupe is a little concerned his rusty friend may tarnish his image. And his worst fears are realized after Mater makes a visit to a Japanese restroom. A case of mistaken identity finds the naive bucket-of-bolts becoming the right hand wheel to British intelligence agents Finn McMissile and Holley Shiftwell (voices of Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer).
This spy-spoof adventure may catch parents of young children off guard when cars are tortured, killed and disposed of with a variety of weapons. Examples include a car tormented with a ray gun that eventually causes the fuel within him to explode. Another vehicle is seen as a cube of metal—obviously meeting its demise in a crushing machine. And one falls into the sea causing it to burst into multiple pieces. In addition, a scene at a party features vehicles guzzling what looks like alcohol, and a very excited Mater making a beeline for the bar when he is told the drinks are free. The point is, if you imagine these characters as humans, this movie would likely garner a PG-13 rating in the US, yet it still managed to be awarded a G.
That’s not to say Cars 2 doesn’t contain all of the quality of writing and visual elements we have come to expect from Pixar— because it does. As well, there are positive messages resulting from Lightning McQueen’s shameful recognition of his embarrassment over his best friend’s nature. It is even a good bet this film’s higher-octane storyline will make it more likely to appeal to adults and teens, especially considering the scripts lack of sexual content and profanities. However, families with little ones who race around the house mimicking their favorite characters from Cars, may want to wait until their tots have a few more miles under their hoods before taking them to see this computer-animated sequel.