CATEGORIES Family Film Guide
Directors: Brad Lewis and John Lasseter
Starring: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, John Turturro
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Common Sense Media rating: 6+
Moviefone Mama Says: Although all of the slick promotional material may emphasize Lightning McQueen's (Wilson) role, this sequel is really all about Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). The two characters essentially switch places, with lovable Mater as the hero and sophisticated Lightning playing the sidekick. There are still some exciting races for Lightning to compete in, but the action focuses on a British spy mission led by Finn McMissile (Caine) that inadvertently requires Mater's cooperation and expertise. None of our other Radiator Springs friends is prominently featured, and we trade a small town along Route 66 for international locales in Japan, Italy and England. Pixar's animation is always breathtakingly good, and adults will enjoy the many sight gags and inside jokes, but ultimately 'Cars 2' isn't quite as memorable as the original "big car, small town" adventure.
Did You Know?: There are nonstop inside jokes for car aficionados: In Italy, there's a fountain of a Maserati and its logo, the trident; in England, Prince Wheeliam appears to be a Bentley Continental and the Queen a vintage Rolls; and the evil "lemon," Professor Z. is modeled after the 1950s German lemon, the Zündapp Janis. CalArts alums will also spot their signature Easter Egg of classroom number "A113" painted on the side of Siddeley the spy jet.
Parent Concerns: This movie is rated G, but there is definitely more violence than in the original 'Cars.' A couple of characters are killed (one is even tortured), and various henchmen and the British spies (plus Mater) sport guns and other weapons.
Here are three talking points to extend your movie-going experience.
1. Believe in Yourself: Mater's feelings are hurt when Lightning asks him to change his behavior to fit in better and when Finn assumes he's just "pretending" to be ignorant. But eventually Mater learns to just trust in his own abilities and be himself. How is this a good lesson in real life? Should you change who you are and how you act just to please your friends or strangers?
2. Stereotyping?: Some critics have accused Pixar of making the Larry the Cable Guy-voiced Mater a redneck equivalent of Jar Jar Binks -- a minstrel like country bumpkin that outsiders perceive as a fool. Do you think Mater is an unkind stereotype of the small-town "hillbilly," or is he redeemed by the fact that he actually has encyclopedic knowledge of different cars and eventually saves the day?
3. Eco Friendly: Although the youngest viewers may not understand all of the conversation about the importance of alternative fuel or the over-dependence on gasoline, older kids will pick up on the story's underlying environmental message. What are the filmmakers trying to advocate? For a movie about cars (that is responsible for creating hundreds of different toys, games and other merchandise), is it appropriate to introduce environmental themes, ala 'WALL-E'?
Three to See: Pixar's Best
1. 'Finding Nemo': It's one of the best father-son films in movie history. Fabulous undersea animation, memorable characters and a touching story make this an all-time fave.
2. 'The Incredibles': Kids will love the superhero family antics, teens will appreciate Violet's believable angst, and parents will commiserate with the work-life balance issues.
3. 'Toy Story' movies: Pixar's flagship franchise follows the adventures of Woody, Buzz and all of their toy pals in this inimitable series that's arguably the studio's best.