Global daredevil Axelrod (Izzard) has challenged the world's fastest cars to a three-part grand prix, so rally champ McQueen (Wilson) heads to Tokyo with his pal Mater (Larry) to take on rival F1 racer Francesco (Turturro). But Mater obliviously stumbles into a sinister international espionage operation, mistaken for a spy by British agents Finn and Holly (Caine and Mortimer). As the competition continues to the Italian Riviera and London, McQueen frets that he has insulted Mater. But he's actually entangled in a mission to stop a mysterious villain from blowing up the racers.
The film has a frenetic pace that never lets up, with a constant barrage of witty verbal gags, visual jokes and enough characters to fill a 10-storey parking garage. Meanwhile, the action is non-stop, with a continual stream vrooming races and breathless action set pieces. All of this is eye-poppingly animated with serious skill; there's so much going on that we don't know where to look. Frankly, merely watching the backgrounds is thoroughly entertaining due to the astonishing detail and visual puns.
The voice cast is of course excellent, cleverly augmented by a range of top British thespians (Vanessa Redgrave as the Queen) and drivers (Lewis Hamilton and Jensen Button). And there are hilarious touches throughout the story, such as the fact that the villain's goons are a gang of disgruntled lemons (including Mantegna's Gremlin and Townsend's Yugo). Intriguingly, this is actually Mater's story, and Larry keeps this ludicrously hapless character rather endearing.
The problem is that the nonstop mayhem around him is exhausting, with a story so diffuse that it's impossible to properly engage with the characters. No matter how likeable Mater is, his constant bumbling is painfully embarrassing, which kind of undermines the "be yourself" message. But of course, the bigger issue is the premise's internal logic. Amazingly, there seems to be even less of that than before, as the screenplay is packed with things that simply don't make any sense, even in a world populated by cars.
Run time: 106 mins
In Theaters: Friday 24th June 2011
Box Office USA: $191.5M
Box Office Worldwide: $551.2M
Distributed by: Walt Disney Pictures/PIXAR
Production compaines: Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 39%
Fresh: 80 Rotten: 124
IMDB: 6.4 / 10
Director: John Lasseter
Producer: Denise Ream
Screenwriter: Ben Queen
Starring: Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen (voice), Michael Caine as Finn McMissile (voice), Emily Mortimer as Holley Shiftwell (voice), Michael Keaton as Chick Hicks (voice), Jason Isaacs as Siddeley (voice), Bonnie Hunt as Sally Carrera (voice), John Ratzenberger as Mack (voice), Tony Shalhoub as Luigi (voice), Larry the Cable Guy as Mater (voice), Eddie Izzard as Sir Miles Axlerod (voice), John Turturro as Francesco Bernoulli (voice), Brent Musburger as Brent Mustangburger (voice), Joe Mantegna as Grem (voice), Thomas Kretschmann as Professor Z (voice), Darrell Waltrip as Darrell Cartrip (voice), Franco Nero as Uncle Topolino (voice), David Hobbs as David Hobbscap (voice), Patrick Walker as Mel Dorado (voice), Jeff Garlin as Otis (voice), Michel Michelis as Tomber (voice), Vanessa Redgrave as The Queen / Mama Topolino (voice), Cheech Marin as Ramone (voice), Peter Jacobson as Acer (voice)
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