Cars 2

The story is not much better than it predecessor, but the animation makes Cars 2 visually stunning.

 to R: Grem (voice by Joe Mantegna), Acer (voice by Peter Jacobson), Siddeley (voice by Jason Isaacs), Lightning McQueen (voice by Owen Wilson), Mater (voice by Larry the Cable Guy) and Finn McMissile (voice by Sir Michael Caine). ©Disney/Pixar.
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Cars 2
Directors: John Lassetter and Brad Lewis
Starring: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine

It's a mark of the quality that comes out of the Disney-Pixar collaboration that when a film is less than breathtaking, people are disappointed.

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Last Updated: 20 June, 2011 UAE

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For many, the 2006 film Cars was such a movie. While far from maligned, it didn't possess the awe-inspiring scale or storytelling found in hits such as Up and Wall-E. However, marking the start of a deluge of forthcoming Pixar sequels and prequels (Monsters University and The Incredibles 2 are both on the slate), we have a return to talking automobiles in Cars 2.

The brave race car Lightning McQueen (Wilson) and his best friend, the dim-witted tow truck Mater (Larry The Cable Guy) leave their hometown for a trip across the world as McQueen takes part in the first-ever World Grand Prix, a competition to decide who is the fastest car in the world. While many look to beat him on the track, off it Mater becomes unwittingly embroiled in an international spy mission, enlisted (and closely followed) by the suave mastermind Finn McMissile (Caine). As they race from one city to the next, the pair try to capture the championship and save the world.

Although it wisely goes for a basic "spy movie" blueprint (rather than the muddled culture-clash story that made up the first outing), the story isn't vastly superior to the previous film, and is still somewhat short of Pixar's best work. It makes up for its shortcomings, however, with simply breathtaking animation. Cars 2 is the first of Pixar's films to truly embrace the 3D format, and we go from high-seas adventure to neon-stripped wonder, with even the sternest of critics having to admit that visually, at least, this is impressive. The overall message of the film has a lot more heart as well – whereas the predecessor opted for misty-eyed nostalgia, this goes for simpler themes such as doing the right thing and the value of friendship.

Pixar continues its policy of casting the right voice for the right role (rather than the most famous name), and adds a superb collection of voice talent to the already strong cast. Caine brings the same class that the late, great Paul Newman did to the previous film, while other new additions include John Turturro (no doubt channelling some of his character from The Big Lebowski) as an Italian car, and Emily Mortimer as a young, British female spy. Wilson's gentle, laid-back tones are still the perfect match for the four-wheeled hero, while the comedian Larry the Cable Guy takes care of the laughter as his loveable character grows on you.

Although unlikely to be regarded among the best of the American studios' work, Cars 2 is a likeable sequel with dazzling visuals and a soft centre that adheres to everything Disney storytelling stands for. The director Lassetter (the Toy Story trilogy) may not be able to make up for the lack of adventure or originality, but (along with the co-director Lewis) he does bring a lot of fun to a film that younger viewers will revel in.