JUNE 24, 2011 -- "Cars 2," opening in theaters today, takes the race off the track and into the belly of international crime, James Bond-style.
The lovable, loyal -- yet socially inept -- Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy) takes on a leading role. While his good buddy Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is racing in the World Grand Prix, Mater gets tangled up with British super spy Finn McMissile (voice of Michael Caine), spy-in-training Holly Shiftwell (voice of Emily Mortimer), and a host of bad cars that attempt to jeopardize the race.
"Cars 2" is a markedly darker sequel to the more wholesome original. With its themes of friendship and teamwork, "Cars" was perfect for preschoolers yet still contained some mature humor for adults. "Cars 2" has grown up with its original fans, both in terms of plot and special effects. The sequel is full of thrilling and suspenseful car fights and chases all set in the visually beautiful backdrop of Japan, Italy, France and the United Kingdom. These diverse cultures juxtapose nicely with Mater's simpleton humor and provide great backdrops for espionage and organized crime.
While most of the old characters from Radiator Springs return for "Cars 2," the movie includes the welcome introduction of additional mechanical characters and extras, including animated boats, airplanes and even pigeons. Crabby, a boat voiced by Sig Hansen, and the Popemobile, both make humorous cameos. Siddeley, a British twin-engine spy jet, is a nice addition to the cast.
The movie pays tribute to Doc Hudson (voice of now deceased Paul Newman), but it would have been nice to pay tribute to the anti-establishment comedian George Carlin, who voiced Fillmore in the first movie. In "Cars 2," Lloyd Sherr does an average job of voicing the hippy fuel-loving van.
Overall, with its humor, thrills and amazing animation, this sequel lives up to its hype and will be enjoyed by Cars fans of all ages. Rest assured, the old themes of friendship and teamwork that were hallmarks of "Cars," still find a place in the harder-edged sequel.
"Cars 2" is rated G and is available in 3D and IMAX 3D.
Note: If your child is afraid of Frank, the menacing combine harvester in the original movie, they may have trouble with the villains of "Cars 2," and the explosive conflicts they create. There are plenty of explosions, gunfire and even a few car casualties in "Cars 2."