Starring: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine
Directed by: John Lasseter (“Toy Story”) and Brad Lewis (debut)
Written by: Ben Queen (“Proximity”)
After 16 years of smooth sailing down a highway of animation bliss, the check engine light is officially blinking at Disney Pixar with their newest feature film “Cars 2.”
It may have taken them a while to pull it off, but the studio, who has built a reputation on groundbreaking computer graphics and pitch-perfect storylines and characters, has finally done something that seemed extremely unlikely given their extraordinary 16-year track record – they’ve delivered a real clunker.
A shiny clunker, yes, but junk nonetheless. While it is rare to see Pixar struggle, it’s not much of a surprise they’ve hit a rough patch with this particular franchise. Despite what box office and merchandising receipts say (little boys love their Hot Wheels), the original “Cars” in 2006 was not exactly a winner either. Any film that assembles a cast of characters based on lazy stereotypes can’t really be recognized for its originality. But at least the first one had that new car smell. Despite the sequel’s impressive design (those hubcaps sure do gleam), there are some ugly things going on under the hood that easily makes “Cars 2” the weakest entry into the Pixar catalog.

The problems start and end with an uninspired, witless, and convoluted script, which places racecar Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and country bumpkin tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) into a story centered on international espionage and a case of mistaken identity. The James Bond-esque scenarios never push the creativity to the high standards Pixar has placed on itself since releasing “Toy Story” in 1995.
Alas, not all is wasted on a trip to the theater if pleading kids have made a “Cars 2” screening nonnegotiable. The short animated film “Hawaiian Vacation” featuring the “Toy Story” characters, which precedes the actual movie, is a gem. Just remember to sneak out once you hear those engines start to rev.

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