DIRECTED BY JOHN LASSETER
WITH THE VOICES OF OWEN WILSON, LARRY THE CABLE GUY, MICHAEL CAINE, EMILY MORTIMER, BONNIE HUNT, JOHN TURTURRO, EDDIE IZZARD, JASON ISAACS, THOMAS KRETSCHMANN, JOE MANTEGNA, PETER JACOBSON, TONY SHALHOUB, GUIDO QUARONI, PAUL DOOLEY, JOHN RATZENBERGER with JEFF GORDON, LEWIS HAMILTON and VANESSA REDGRAVE
‘Cars 2’ is not a film that can pause to answer if you ask it to explain itself. It’s not futile to ask that; it’s mindless. It’s something the film sidesteps on its race ahead. Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) could have had a hand in the ‘Toy Story’ franchise playing grease-man in Operation Rescue-Woody. Same goes with Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). These are two cars with as much utility as depth in character. Their presence would make an ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ out of ‘Toy Story’ centered on a moral bailout. With them, you could’ve had more effective, much more diversified action that would pacify the Hot-Wheels-Kid as much as the Teddy-hugger; the Action-figure bully as much as the Barbie doll. They’re universal, in short.
And yet we find that John Lasseter, the man behind Pixar Animation Studios in both heart and mind, prefers to write a movie for them than make one out of them. And then a second. We ask why. Chinese food in China is ‘food’ where you can tell good from bad. Doc. Hudson in ‘Toy Story’ could have been the ‘Wise Old Hornet.’ With ‘Cars’, he became a character. He played Mickey to McQueen’s Balboa. Now we hear he’s no more.
It’s been five years since the film that portrayed people in ‘Cars’ in a mix of oil and water as thick as blood. It’s been sixteen since the one that built on the question of “what if your Toys could talk?” With Pixar, it has ever been a magical journey, through tall stories as a consequence of a heightened imagination that nurtures the same. They’ve had the means, they’ve had the method. They’ve got the wildness that gives means to the method. There’s no story untellable, no dream too far.
There’s none like Pixar that understands the concept of an animated feature. It’d only take you a look at the chronology with Pixar contributions to see what I’m saying. The ‘Toy Story’ series. ‘Monsters Inc.’ ‘Finding Nemo.’ ‘Cars.’ ‘the Incredibles.’ ‘Ratatouille.’ ‘WALL-E.’ Startlingly original stories brought to life with the help of computer-generated imaging. The animation is but an accessory to the storytelling, it’s the brain that dazzles. Its complexity is not evident, its joints not seen. All that shows is an organic whole, taking off with astounding precision. With Pixar studios, it’s all about the baby without fuss on the miracle of conception. They’re like a real force of nature that way.
‘Cars 2’ is no different. It’s an espionage routine set on a racing circuit with oil tycoons and an alternate energy bubble. A comprehensive turn of events fit into a framework that actually provides scope for questioning – how many films are we having to take for granted these days? ‘Cars 2’ is an exciting break from that drill. You accept the very basic premise and you get to savour the storyline, its logic intact. This world is nothing but talking cars, talking ships, talking 747s and helicopters. Fuel and water turn delicacies, the Big Ben is called the ‘Big Bentley’ with windows shaped like radiators. Dying is but engine-burst where people are cars. Like Lewis Hamilton. Like Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) who is sort of an Aston Martin, James-Bond-styled. If there was to be a superhero, it’d be the Batmobile. Or Mater.
There’s something very special about ‘Cars’ and its sequel. These are the only films that have had Lasseter involved in the creative process. Films that he’s directed, films he’s conceived. The others, he’s executive-produced. In Lasseter, I draw a Judd Apatow comparison. That he saves only the best for himself. By ‘best’, I mean the ‘closest to heart.’ Films that he simply cannot let pass. Films that, undeniably, are HIS. It’s uncanny, his eye for detail. The setting, the characters, the voice-acting, the little nothings you’d probably not even notice and the consistency in the same. It’s amazing how his cars are both real and yet extremely imaginative at the same time. They’re ‘intricately-detailed-characters’ taken a little too literally. Every single one of them is loveable. They all grow on you. Even the Queen (Vanessa Redgrave) – the ‘Shakespeare in Love’ sort of cameo by an equally exciting actress.
McMissile calls Mater ‘the smartest, most honest chap he’s ever met.’ Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) adds ‘most Charming’ to the list. ‘Cars 2’ calls for similar praise. It’s pure celebration that never runs dry. The only thing that’s missing would be a dance-routine. And I would watch a third film just for that.