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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cars 2

Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy return for successful sequel

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The nonentities increasingly populating the Rotten Tomatoes movie review site have complained about the theme of Cars 2, a cartoon that dares to question the fossil-fuel-industrial complex. Whether these so-called critics are against movies with themes as a general principle or own stock in British Petroleum is unclear. Disclaimers weren't offered. Full disclosure on my part: Contrary to those guys, I like the idea of a cartoon with something to say about the world we share as long as the message doesn't overweigh the pleasure of animation.

The idea of championing alternative energy in a sequel to Cars is just the sort of clever subversion that Pixar Studios has mastered in its 25-year history. And make no mistake: Cars 2 isn't a heavy-handed homily brightly wrapped in computer animation, but rather a kinetic spectacle entertaining to children and giving adults many opportunities to spot those vital pop-culture references. It does everything a Pixar film should do, including endowing the talking cars with more sympathy than the live-action characters of most contemporary Hollywood pictures. The cars are, well, more human and worthy of our interest and respect.

The alternative fuel developed by the billionaire Sir Miles Axlerod (voiced by Eddie Izzard) and the deep-ocean oil-drilling empire of the sinister Professor Z (Thomas Kretschmann) provide the context for a story that's all heart and motion. Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and bumbling sidekick Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) travel to a Grand Prix stretching across Japan and Europe and fueled by Sir Miles' new product. Professor Z has every reason to thwart the race's success. If you find this annoying because you own stock in BP and are rooting for Professor Z, you could easily focus instead on the enduring Pixar message of friendship and tire-bumping camaraderie. Lightning has every reason to cut the doltish Mater from his life, but learns to suffer fools gladly if the fool is a loyal friend whose intentions are good.n