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Cars 2 (2011) - Movie Review for Parents

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating
User Rating 1.5 Star Rating (12 Reviews)

By

Cars 2 Blu-ray
Photo © Disney/Pixar

Bottom line: Cars 2 brings back our favorite car friends in a brilliantly animated high-speed mega action adventure. Parents should know that, for a G movie, this film contains heavy violence and characters drink from martini glasses in bar or club style settings (drink bottles all say "oil").

MPAA Rating: G
Guide age recommendation: 7+
Genre: Animated/Action/Adventure
Runtime: 112 minutes
Starring: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Bonnie Hunt
Release Date: June 24, 2011

Cars 2 - Overview

Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) has now proven himself as a racing champion and is looking forward to a quiet summer in Radiator Springs, but his plans take a different turn when he is goaded into racing in the World Grand Prix. Now, McQueen will get to prove himself on an international scale as he competes with the best of the best in a global race sponsored by Miles Axelrod (voice of Eddie Izzard), a former oil baron who wants to show off his new alternative fuel, Allinol.

Joined by his trusty pit crew, Lightning heads off to Tokyo, the location of the race. His best friend Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy) is also ecstatic to have been invited along. But, when the two best friends have a bit of a falling out, Mater races off and unwittingly gets himself caught up in a tangled web of international espionage.

Having been mistaken for an undercover American spy, Mater is flown around the globe with his new friends Finn McMissile (voice of Michael Caine), a smooth British operative, and the savvy technical expert turned field agent Holley Shiftwell (voice of Emily Mortimer). As the light bulb begins to turn on, slowly, in his head, though, Mater realizes he's in a heck of a mess. And not just him, either. The fate of the World Grand Prix, and many lives, rest on his shoulders. A scary thought for one of, "average intelligence." But, if Mater can just dig deep and realize his own potential, he can save the day and prove that he's nobody's fool.

Cars 2 - Guide Review for Parents

Cars 2 Movie PhotoPhoto © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

Before I go on about how beautiful this movie is, let me get this out of the way: I'm surprised that this was rated G. I don't want the parents of all those preschoolers out there who adore Cars to be blindsided. If you have any qualms about your kid being subjected to heavy cartoon violence, please preview the movie first, or you can check out the Cars 2 Movie Trailers and Clips, which give a generally good idea of what to expect. More on that in a minute.

First, this movie seems to be geared at kids about 7-12 years old, especially boys. This high-speed, mega action movie goes back and forth between racing and shooting faster than you can say Lightning McQueen. While I find it a little unfortunate that the preschoolers who have been such loyal fans of the franchise are being overshot with this picture, and I believe that although 10, 11, 12 year-old may like the movie, they will never admit it, I also have to point out that the animation is stunning and the characters are as clever as ever.

Watching Cars 2 on the big screen, I felt like I could have just gotten out of my seat and walked straight into the glossy animated world. Also, the 3D is absolutely seamless -- to the point that I totally forgot I was even wearing the glasses.

Mater and the other characters, new and old, really shine as well. And, there are a lot of carefully crafted background elements that are fun to look for while watching the movie. The storyline is generally intriguing and brings about a double dose of character growth for our simple but real friend Mater and his best friend Lightning.

Now back to the content. When I say the cartoon violence is heavy, I'm talking explosions, cars getting blown up, and even cars getting tortured. Also, several scenes depict cars drinking out of martini glasses and the like. I know from when we interviewed John Lasseter that every labeled bottle or container in those scenes says, "oil," but the imagery is also a key factor, and I don't know how many kids will be paying attention to the bottles in the background.

That being said, there are also a couple of great messages that come through in the film. Mater has a real opportunity to see himself as he really is, and Lightning also learns a thing or two about friendship and loyalty. I don't want to give anything away, but I really love one scene in the film where Mater is hit hard with what others think of him, but he rises above it. A truthful character, he can even see the truth of his own worth, which is something many of us struggle with. So, take a look at the trailers and clips if you want to get an idea of what to expect, and if you see the film, take the time to let other parents know what you think using the "Write a Review" section below.

Cars 2 - Content Overview

*May contain spoilers.

  • Violence (Extreme): Animated cars in the movie are involved in crashes, explosions and even torture (usually brief and caused by electric current or something similar). For a G movie, this is an extreme and intense level of violence.
Cars 2 Movie PhotoPhoto © Disney/Pixar. All rights reserved.

  • Scary Scenes (High): Young children may be frightened during perilous scenes where cars have been kidnapped or are in danger of being blown up. Also, content listed under "violence" may be frightening and unsettling to kids.
  • Sex/Nudity (Low): Mater has eyes for Holley Shiftwell and calls her his girlfriend. A couple of cars kiss briefly in the movie.
  • Drugs and Alcohol (High) While what they are drinking is actually oil, Cars in the movie drink from alcohol related glasses in bar or club type settings.
  • Language (Low): A few rude words like "fool" are used.
  • Disrespectful/Imitative Behavior (Extreme): Bad guy cars kidnap, shoot at and kill other cars. The movie also contains lots of car crashes and things blowing up. The bad guy in the movie manipulates others to accomplish his selfish designs.
  • Sad/Unsettling Scenes (Medium): Though some cars are hurt or killed in the movie, the incidents are not treated in a heavy or somber way. Therefore, some kids may be unsettled or sad by these scenes, and others may not.
  • Movie Topics Kids Might Have Questions About: Car racing, drinking, spying, explosives, guns, oil vs. alternative fuel, friendship, fitting in

Cars 2 - Blu-ray

Pixar movies always look very pretty in HD, and Cars 2 is especially interesting to look at with all the exotic locations and detailed backgrounds. We found that we didn't miss the 3D at all with the regular Blu-ray, although I'm sure the movie looks great in 3D at home as well.

The movie is actually fairly light on bonus features, but those included are high caliber, with none of the annoying "this is such a great movie" filler pieces. The Pixar short "Hawaiian Vacation" is among the best in a long list of great shorts, bringing back the beloved Toy Story characters in a funny and endearing little story. The short "Flying Mater" features a "tall tale" from the friendly tow truck that ends in a sort of commercial plug for the upcoming Planes spinoff.

The director commentary version of the movie provides rich detail and insight into the ideas and concepts behind the movie, as the commentary is done by John Lasseter. Being the celebrated creative mind that he is, I think a wide variety of viewers will find interest in hearing him talk about his vision for the movie, where some of the ideas came from, and the strategy behind different scenes throughout the film.

Disclosure: The studio provided a free screening of this movie for review purposes as well as travel and expenses to come to L.A. for the press junket. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

User Reviews

 1 out of 5
Cars 2 Violent and Scary, Member TEC

This movie was so violent and scary, I had to leave with my five-year-old in the middle of it. Very disappointing, particularly given how much we loved the original cars movie. I wonder how they coul…More

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