Mater the Tow Truck takes the lead in delightful new computer-animated automotive adventure
Starring the voices of Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy & Michael Caine
Directed by John Lasseter & Brad Lewis
G, 112 minutes
Buckle up--the stars of “Cars,” the wonderfully inventive 2006 animated hit about a community of talking, thinking, feeling, anthropomorphic automobiles, are off and running on a new adventure.
The summer’s first must-see family feature film is another cross-generational treasure from the folks at Pixar-Disney, who continue to live up to their own high standards of “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo,” “Up” and other cinematic gems that combine humor, high-tech animation in the service of a good story, and heart.
The original movie was set in the slow-lane, make-believe burg of Radiator Springs, but this time a fresh cast of new car characters helps set the stage for a for a wild trip around the world.
Owen Wilson returns as the voice of Lightning McQueen, the shiny red racer whose speed and spunk have made him a local legend. Challenged to compete in an international Grand Prix event, Lightning and his rusty, trusty sidekick, Mater the tow truck (Larry the Cable Guy), strike out for Tokyo, Italy and London.
Little do they know that they’re about to be steered into a global scheme of mistaken identity, secret-agent sedans and a devious plan to upset the world automobile order.
The marvelously imaginative plot will be especially delightful to any parents (or other grown-ups) with fond memories of James Bond movies from a previous era of super-cool spy gadgetry, evil “international” villains, devilishly close calls and daring escapes.
Michael Caine voices Finn McMissle, a sleek ‘60s British superspy sportster that gives a whole new meaning to “fully accessorized.” Finn can dispatch an arsenal of firepower, spread a slippery oil slick in his wake, rappel vertical surfaces convert into a speedboat.
Other recognizable voices include John Turturo as Lightning’s cocky Italian competitor; Eddie Izzard as billionaire alternative-fuel tycoon Sir Miles Axelrod; and Joe Mantegna as a grungy little AMC Gremlin. Racing fans will want to keep their ears peeled for “car cameos” by Darrell Waltrip (as “Darrell Cartrip”), sportscaster Brent Musburger (“Brent Mustangburger”) and Speed Channel commentator David Hobbs (“David Hobbscap”).
The clever, almost nonstop automotive puns and delightful sight gags zip by so fast there’s little time for funny bones shift gears before the next one, and the espionage storyline may be a bit much for smaller children to fully follow--and appreciate for all its witty wonders.
But there’s certainly plenty here for tots to love, especially the comedic antics of Mater, who’s hands-down the star of “Cars 2.” His devotion to Lightning knows no bounds, but the drawly tow truck nonetheless manages to make a real mess of everything--until given an opportunity to save the day.
And at the core of this 100-smiles-an-hour road trip is a fine to-go message about friendship, loyalty and the dents and dings of life that will get the winner’s flag from audiences of all ages.