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The Cars gang is back for a second round and, in case you have not read the reviews, the critics aren’t too impressed. I saw the movie today with my kid and found that it wasn’t as bad as I had been led to believe! Pixar has set the bar so high that we expect a home run each time they step up to bat. This is the problem of the overly defined and successful brand!

Image courtesy of Pixar

Here is my take on Cars 2; somethings work very well and some not so much:

Setting & Story: Pixar has always delivered animation movies that go way beyond the cute and cuddly. This time we get to see the detailed renditions of places in Japan, Italy and England. The 3D movie really delivers a dramatic setting and sets the bar very high for future animation movies.  The challenge though is to balance the setting with the story and Cars 2 does take on multiple story developments while having Lightning McQueen run three legs of the World Grand Prix – Mater gets mistaken for a spy and gets to hang-out with a British agent in the mold of Bond, James Bond! And underlying it all we also hear about the need for alternative fuel and the need to move on from dependence on Big Oil. I thought the story showed an ambitious reach.

McQueen & Mater :We all know about the curse of the sequels. There is very often such a high sense of anticipation from the first book or movie, that the second is doomed to disappoint. The charm of the unlikely friendship between McQueen and Mater from the first movie cannot be simply extended to the second movie. So, Cars 2 does bring up the issue that this is not a friendship that can easily extend beyond Radiator Springs. While it brings up the disconnect between the friends, it does end with a pat “be yourself and all will be well” message. Well, it is an animated movie intended for young kids and I am not sure a deeper resolution is possible in this context.

Sequel & Spin-off: This is a movie that treads an interesting ground between sequel and spin-off. It is a sequel to the extent that there are all the main characters and racing is a still a big part of the story. However, this movie is predominantly about Mater and his experience as an international spy. This plot line carries the story in new directions; it opens up possibilities in terms of the different worlds that Pixar can explore with the Cars franchise!

I do understand what some of the critics mean when they say that this is a movie that you may not want to see if you don’t have a kid in tow – it is a testament to Pixar’s other movies that we have come to expect animation movies that work well for kids and adults,  movies that are intelligent and endearing. While this movie is probably more kid-oriented in that the humor is less sophisticated than some other Pixar classics, as a mom I was happy with this kids’ movie because it delivered what I wanted – clean-cut, creative entertainment for my young kid!