PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
Four-time Piston Cup champion race car Lightning McQueen returns home to Radiator Springs and reunites with best friend Mater and girlfriend Sally Carrera. Former oil tycoon Miles Axlerod, now a green power advocate, announces a racing series called the “World Grand Prix”, as a means to promote Allinol biofuel. Although McQueen initially refuses to participate, Italian formula race car Francesco Bernoulli’s challenge, as well as Mater’s intervention, leads McQueen to enter the Grand Prix. At Sally’s urging, McQueen agrees to take Mater with him, only to have the tow truck embarrass him repeatedly in Japan with his jovially ignorant antics.
Meanwhile, a group of “lemon” cars led by Professor Zündapp and an unknown mastermind owns the largest untapped oil reserves in the world. They secretly plot to secure their oil profits by using a weapon disguised as a television camera to ignite the Allinol fuel in targeted race cars during the World Grand Prix; with no apparent cause for the explosions, the public would doubt the fuel’s safety and depend further on the group’s oil. British spies Finn McMissile and Holley Shiftwell attempt to foil their plot. They attempt to rendezvous with American spy car Rod “Torque” Redline at a World Grand Prix promotional event in Tokyo in order to receive information about the mastermind; however, Redline is cornered by Zündapp’s henchmen and passes his information to an unsuspecting Mater before being captured and subsequently killed. As a result, Shiftwell and McMissile mistake Mater as their American contact.
During the first race in Tokyo, McMissile and Holley help a still-oblivious Mater evade Zündapp’s henchmen; in the process, Mater inadvertently gives McQueen bad advice which causes him to lose the race. Meanwhile, Zündapp uses the weapon on several race cars. At the end of his patience with Mater’s embarrassing behavior as well as causing his loss, McQueen berates Mater, who decides to return to Radiator Springs. McMissile, who still believes Mater is an American spy, drafts him into foiling Zündapp’s plot.
In Italy, the site of the second race, a disguised Mater infiltrates the criminals’ meeting and discovers Zündapp’s plan. Zündapp’s henchmen, meanwhile, use their weapon on most of the cars during the race. With the Allinol fuel under suspicion, Axlerod suspends its use for the final race in England; however, McQueen decides to continue using it. The criminals decide to kill McQueen in the next race; upon hearing this, Mater blows his cover and is captured along with McMissile and Shiftwell.
Rendered unconscious, Mater has a mortifying dream where he sees his recent activities in a different perspective and realizes how foolish he has been acting, until he wakes up tied up inside Big Bentley along with McMissile and Shiftwell, minutes away from being crushed by its gears. The criminals use the weapon on McQueen during the race, but nothing happens. Mater manages to escape in order to warn his friends of a bomb planted in McQueen’s pit area, but McMissile and Shiftwell find that the bomb was planted on Mater. They warn Mater about the bomb just in time, and Mater flees to protect his friends. However, he is pursued by a repentant McQueen determined to make amends to his friend, unaware of the real danger until they are out of range of Zündapp’s remote detonator. He sends his henchmen to kill McQueen and Mater, but they are foiled by the combined efforts of McMissile, Shiftwell, and the Radiator Springs residents. Upon his capture, Zündapp reveals that only the person who installed the bomb can deactivate it. Mater then figures out that the mastermind behind the Allinol plot is Miles Axlerod, who is forced to deactivate the bomb in a final confrontation.
For having Axlerod arrested, Mater is knighted by the Queen and returns home with his friends, where the cars from the Grand Prix take part in the unofficial Radiator Springs Grand Prix. Fillmore reveals that before the last race, Sarge replaced Lightning’s Allinol with Fillmore’s organic fuel, which prevented Lightning from being affected by the weapon. McMissile and Shiftwell invite Mater to join them in another spy mission, but he declines, claiming that he is where he belongs.
The gang from Radiator Springs returns, but this time instead of trying to teach Lightning McQueen a lesson in humility, Mater is caught up in a case of mistaken identity, which lands him in the middle of the spy world.
Now, when they revealed what the plot was going to be for this film, I was about as skeptical as the next guy. First off, the original film has been well documented as probably the least successful Pixar film to date, yet at the same time, it seems to be the most marketable. Second, I’m one of those people who thinks they need to stop pussy-footin’ around and get to making a sequel to The Incredibles already. Finally, how do you go from racing to spy stuff? Then, it hit me…Speed Racer sort of did it, so it could work, if done right.
The spy aspect of this film actually does work, and I think it is in part to the brilliant performance by Larry the Cable Guy as Mater. There is just something about Mater’s stupidity and naiveté that makes it work. At the same time, though, it does seem a bit of overkill with him. In almost every scene, there was something about Mater. Make no mistake, he is hands down the most popular (or at least marketable) of all these characters, but, supposedly, Lightning McQueen in the star.
Speaking of Lightning, he has a few scenes here and there. Most of them berating Mater or making up to him. When he’s not doing that, he’s engaging in a war of words with Francesco Burnoulli, a hot-shot Italian F-1 race car. The exchanges between them are even better than the ones between Lightning and Chic in the first film.
Michael Caine is perfect as the veteran spy car, Finn McMissile. Who else would ou have chosen for this part, though, really?
Emily Mortimer is perfect in her role as Holly. The warmth of her voice mixed with her natural comedic talents and ability to deliver these lines are great.
During the time from the first film to the making of this one, we lost two of the original voices. George Carlin, who voiced Fillmore and Paul Newman, who lent his voice to Doc Hudson. While they replaced Carlin, which I think was unnecessary, since they could have easily just brought in a new hippie van, they honored the memory of Newman, well Hudson, very briefly by showing this Doc Hudson museum. It was a touching moment, but leaves one to wonder, how did Doc die?
There are several cameo and celebrity voices to be heard throughout this film from the likes of Joe Mantegna, Jason Isaacs, Eddie Izzard, Bruce Campbell, Jeff Gordon, Brent Mussberger, and the list goes on.
One review I read of this film called it more of an action-spy film, rather than a family flick. I have to agree. While the family aspect is there, complete with the token “change your ways” scenes, the action, whether it be racing on the track, or some kind of spy mission, full of explosions, espionage, or what have you.
This film was released in 3D. Now, I’m far being a fan of 3D, but there are some scenes here that I think would have worked very well had they have been done well using the medium. However, I have no faith in 3D, so I doubt they were.
The animation is great and vastly improved over the last film, but it has been 5 yrs. I would expect to see some sort of improvement over that time, wouldn’t you?
Cars was pretty good, but there are moments in it that leave something to be desired. This sequel, for me at least, was expected to be nothing more than a blatant cash grab. Boy was I surprised with how well it turned out. I was riveted from start to finish! Pixar always puts out a good product, and this is no exception. I highly recommend this to any and all. You will enjoy it and find yourself wanting more!
5 out of 5 stars