Friday, June 24, 2011

Cars 2 [2011]

MPAA (G) CNS/USCCB (A-1) Roger Ebert (3 ½ stars) Fr Dennis (3 stars for technical quality 1 star for message)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert’s review -

Cars 2[2011] (directed by John Lassater and Brad Lewis, screenplay by Ben Queen, story by John Lassater and Brad Lewis again as well as Dan Fogelman) is a PIXAR movie that I went to see with some unease.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve liked a lot of PIXAR movies over the years including Finding Nemo, WALL-E, Up and (grudgingly again) Toy Story 3

Why my problem with the Cars (as well as the Toy Story) films?  Well, I just find myself uneasy (and suspicious) watching man-made, commercial (read sellable) objects so personified as they are in such films.  Why doesn’t it bother me to watch talking fish in Finding Nemo or talking barnyard animals in the Shrek series, I do not know.  I also admit that I loved Robin Williams’ Bicentennial Man about a sentient robot who sought to become more and more human, I absolutely loved the dog-collar devices in Up that allowed us to understand what dogs were thinking and I even had little problem with the robot approaching consciousness in WALL-E who discovered that he was lonely.  With his beeps and whistles, WALL-E reminded me a lot of R2D2 of Star Wars

Where I seem to draw the line, however, is when things that kids (and adults) routinely buy (or have bought for them) suddenly are given super human personalities.  Yes, a kid would give a doll or even action figure some personality as well.  But it would be _the kid_ doing so him or herself, _not_ the company manufacturing (or representing) the toy doing so for them.  With regard to the cars in Cars, they _are_ charming and are given personalities often associated with people who would be driving such cars in real life.  Yet, there is consumerist propaganda here - if you want to be perceived as cool, _buy_ a cool car.  To be sure, there’s _some_ backpedaling here from total crassness of that message.  Mater (voice by Larry the Cable Guy) the “hick” tow-truck is presented as a loveable hero in the Cars movies. (Lightning McQueen (voice by Owen Wilson) is the race car that Mater the humble tow truck keeps in-line and they become best friends in the first Cars movie). Still, I do voice my protest against a series of child-oriented movies (Cars and Toy Story in particular) which have a part of their message saying in effect “the things you own are ‘people’ too.”  No they are not.

Having said all this, what else to I think of Cars 2?  Well, from technical and creative perspectives, the movie is outstanding.  Different styles of cars are given different personalities.  Foreign cars are given foreign accents.  Michael Caine, for instance, voices a “British spy.”  What’s the car representing him?  Well a sleek, silver Triumph Spitfire sports car that one could imagine James Bond driving.  Organized crime-like “thugs” are represented by “loser” cars like the AMC Gremlin, AMC Pacer, the Yugo.  And the evil, bespeckled German scientist (voice by Thomas Kretschmann) is represented by an old East German Trabant (incidently, possibly the worst mass produced car ever made).  Italians are represented by Fiat-500s, Frenchmen by Peugeots, the Queen of England at the end of the movie by a Rolls Royce.  

What’s the movie about?  Well, it’s topical - about fossil fuel vs biofuels.  Again, the movie pedals and backpedals in so many directions during the course of this movie on this topic that by the end it probably doesn’t offend anyone much, except irritating adult viewers with such a crass attempt to, in fact, not offend.   

Would I recommend the movie?  Ok, I’ll go out on a limb.  No.  It’s a well made animated film, as Pixar’s generally are.  But bottom line, the movie’s about consumerism, and even about the fuel that drives our consumerism.  And no, “objects” are not people, and all fuels are _not_ the same.

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