Friday, July 8, 2011

Cars 2: My Belated Thoughts

Pixar means many things. Most obviously it's the name of the pioneering film studio in Emeryville, Ca.

 For me, Pixar means much more: quality, excitement, entertainment, wonder, thrill, joy.

And, for the first time ever, it means disappointment. It had to happen, the law of averages tells me. To be fair, I saw it coming, but now that it's here, my acute foresight does not make the pain of seeing an average film that is of the Pixar brand any less searing.

The motifs, the morals and the jokes of the film lead me to believe that the movie is more Disney than it is Pixar. The $10 billion in projected merchandise sales also leads me to this conclusion, as does the special toy sections in Target and Ride Makerz, or anywhere else where money be be exchanged for goods.

Pixar's productions, as with most Disney related films, are about overcoming a difference or obstacle. In "UP," Carl faced living a life without his wife and an unfulfilled dream weighing down on him, "Ratatoullie," a rat that loved to cook; "WALL-E," a robot that could love. With "Cars 2," it’s a red neck truck that gets mistaken as a spy, and in the process, gets rejected by his friend, who wants him to change.

I wanted Mater to change, too. Next time, be a little less of a push over, Lightning! I'm not endorsing rejecting who you are, but if who you are is as unfunny and bland as Tow Mater, change might not be a bad thing. Especially if you're that kind of person/car and you happen to be starring in a movie produced by my favorite studio. In that case, change, and change quickly, preferably into a new, original character that has nothing to do with a sequel. Like say, a red-headed scottish girl. That sounds like a good idea. A one eyed green walking sphere? Don't change into that.

"Cars 2" could have been made by any studio. That emotion that Pixar films elicit, that connection that is made with the characters, the excitement the plots bring, it's always magical. None of that exists in "Cars 2." It's just one stupid, fart/red-neck/ignorant joke after another. There are some hints of humor that remind you that what you're watching, at one point (the PS, and the PPS from Mater, that was funny), had The Business’s most original minds behind it, but the rest of it makes apparent you that they had to hand their baby over at some point to Rumpel Stiltsken. Those 11 films of spun gold had to be paid for. "Toy Story 2" took the necklace, "3" the ring.            

It's a movie made for a specific audience, something that has not been done by Pixar: that's how I see it. Obviously, Lasseter and Co. want to make movies that people enjoy, and have been successful in doing so.  But the secret to that success is that the movies were made for self satisfaction.They're huge film fans making movies that they would like, which seems like an obvious way to make a film. And it's what they did, until Disney took over, made them release the film a year early, and slowly stripped them of their artistic integrity. When I visited the studios late last year, I was informed that the people in the rooms around me were a little peeved, having been forced to put the film out a year early. Their frustration shows. It also lives in me and all others who truly and devotedly love what they do at Pixar.

Here's to waiting for their next original film, "Brave."


  1. *Sigh* so what I suspected is true. Cars 2 is the very first Pixar film I didn't get excited about seeing in the theaters and I guess the sadest thing about that is it sounds like the movie was just as dissatisfying as the previews. I really like your point about Pixar's motive for their previous instant classics: self satisfation, not marketing. Makes me sick to think they either crumbled to the pressure or were beat down by it.

  2. I didn't understand the "PS, and the PPS from Mater" bit. What did that mean?