This review is of the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD set.
RELEASE DATE: November 1, 2011
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
ASPECT RATIO: 2.39:1
AUDIO: English 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio, English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio ES, English Descriptive Video Service 2.0 Dolby Digital, English Near Field Mix 2.0, Spanish 7.1 DTS HD HR, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital EX.
SUBTITLES: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Toy Story “Hawaiian Vacation” animated short, Cars Toon “Air Mater” animated short.
AUDIO COMMENTARY: With director John Lasseter and co-director Brad Lewis.
Lightning McQueen travels around the globe to participate in a series of Grand Prix races, while his friend Mater the tow truck is mistaken for a spy and gets tangled in an international conspiracy.
Directed by: John Lasseter
Cars 2 takes the duo of racecar Lightning McQueen and tow truck Mater and throws them into a totally different environment. The world of international Grand Prix racing provides the backdrop for a Mater-centric story in which he is mistaken for a spy. Michael Caine is along for the ride as Finn McMissle, a British spy car, and composer Michael Giacchino provides a James Bond-like soundtrack which really works.
It is obvious from the early scenes that Cars 2 is not going for the clever humor or warm and fuzzy sentimentality of other Pixar films like Toy Story. Originally released in 3D, Cars 2 goes for the “wow” factor from kids, with bright colors, loud races, and a fair amount of explosions. Visual jokes and sight gags abound, and move by at lightning speed, especially in the Japan sequence, which provides some clever jokes at the expense of Japanese culture.
The race scenes are exciting, and there are a fair amount of funny characters that pop in and out, but Larry the Cable Guy (as Mater) carries the bulk of the load here as far as jokes and plot go. That’s both good and bad, because while he is funny, he is not quite enough to carry the film. This “fish out of water” tale (with Mater as the fish), could have used some more zaniness and even some sentimentality to really work.
Parents may not enjoy this as much as other Pixar films, but kids will love the colors and manic pace. The characters are all still fun to watch, and the spy theme mixes it up enough. The plot does get a bit complicated for very young kids, but they likely will not be paying much attention. Even so, even average Pixar is light years ahead of everyone else. This is still a fun little movie that kids will cheer for.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
Cars 2 is like watching Hot Wheels come to life. The animation is superb, and it gets a near-perfect reproduction here. Originally released in 3D, the film thankfully doesn’t go overboard on “in your face” gags, but those who buy the 3D Blu-ray will likely appreciate the immersive environment created here. You will enjoy the surroundings nearly as much as the characters in the foreground, especially in the Japan scenes. This is an absolutely beautiful CGI film to look at.
There are a number of audio tracks to choose from, based mainly on the type of sound system you have. The DTS 7.1 track is fantastic, with excellent channel separation and a lot of depth. 5.1 and 2.0 mixes are also available. This is a soundtrack that relishes both its music and sound effects.
There are not a ton of extras on the Blu-ray, which is disappointing. With so many big names lending their voices to the film, it would have been great to see them work behind the scenes.
The audio commentary by director John Lasseter and co-director Brad Lewis is pretty interesting to listen to. While most commentaries have to be dragged out of some participants, Lasseter is a talkative fellow who provides some great insights into the film. You can tell he really enjoys doing this.
Two animated shorts are also included. One, “Hawaiian Vacation,” features the Toy Story characters and is quite good. It’s nice to see the original cast together again, especially if the last one was indeed the last one. The second short, “Air Mater,” features Mater as he meets characters from the upcoming spinoff Planes. It’s silly fun, and a trailer for Planes is included on the disc.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?
SPECIAL FEATURES: B
OVERALL GRADE: A-
Cars 2 is a fun, fast paced action adventure for kids under 12. Parents might find it mildly amusing (especially if they are Larry the Cable Guy fans), but the film is safe and entertaining for kids, and is very well made, a rarity among children’s entertainment. We absolutely recommend parents buy this for their kids. Older Pixar fans might want to Redbox it and see if it appeals to them.
Cars 2 is now available from Walt Disney Home Entertainment. It is available in a 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD set, a 5-disc set (3D Blu-ray, 2D Blu-ray, Special Features Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy), a DVD pack, and an 11-disc Blu-ray and DVD set (featuring Cars, Cars 2, and Mater’s Tall Tales).