Pixar, in my humble opinion, is the best studio in Hollywood. Their films have been the standard for animation, and pretty much all aspects of quality cinema for the last twenty years. It was inevitable that they would take a step back, albeit a minor one, with their heavy-handed sequel, Cars 2. The animation is superb, a beautiful film to see. But the length and sledgehammer delivery of the message takes Cars 2 down to second gear.
While Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) was the star of Cars, the lovable hillbilly rust-bucket, Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), gets his turn in the limelight with Cars 2. Billionaire British Land Rover, Sir Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard), has discovered an alternative, clean-burning replacement for oil, Allinoil. He decides to throw an epic racing competition, the World Grand Prix. Three races in Tokyo, Paris, and London will show the viability of Allinoil and prove who is the greatest race car, Lightning McQueen or his formula one nemesis, Francisco Bernoulli (John Turturro). However, a dangerous organization of evil, lemon cars wants to discredit Allinoil and sabotage the races. Hot on the lemons trail is the super spy Aston Martin, Finn McMissile (Michael Caine), who has mistaken Tow Mater for an American secret agent.
There's too much going on in Cars 2 for a children's film. It's almost as if Pixar had a list of lessons to teach, then wrote the script around that. Cars 2 is about the environment, friendship, being true to yourself, having confidence, working on a team, love, car racing, and an espionage story. That's a lot to chew for any film, especially an animated film supposedly geared for kids. This avalanche of morality is the reason why Cars 2 is twenty minutes longer than it should be. The film drags considerably by the the third act. There's no surprise where it's going, so you have to sit and watch while the story catches up to the obvious. Pixar needed to par down the story and shave a good chunk off the runtime.
If only the plot could have worked as well as the animation. The races and cities are a wonder to behold. The animators pack so much detail into every frame, I'd bet money that these are exact renderings of the actual places. There was a point when I focussed away from the story, and started checking out the intricate details of the background. Pixar is still leagues above the competition with their technical proficiency.