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Cars 2 review

The car-toon heroes hit the road...

Of all Pixar's alti-verses, the one in Cars is the hardest to buy into.

Motors with eyes for windshields, pootling about a four-wheeled world

modeled on auto parts? It may be John Lasseter's pride and joy, but for

us it's missing some key components.

Internal logic for one. Charm.

Car-isma...

Ok, so the 2006 original eventually won us over with its

fish-out-of-water storyline and its nostalgic passion for Americana. But

not so much that we were craving another outing for Lightning McQueen

and his tow-truck mate Mater, hardly the Butch and Sundance of the

animated fraternity.

Seemingly guessing as much, the Emeryville elite

seek to woo us with a pre-feature short, Hawaiian Vacation, that

joyously reunites the Toy Story gang. Sadly, like a clapped-out banger,

this gambit backfires. We love Buzz and Woody, while we merely tolerate

Mater and McQueen. Why waft champagne under our noses when we are really

getting Car-va?

To be fair, Cars 2 begins well with a Bondian prologue which sees suave

superspy Finn McMissile - voice Michael Caine, body DB5 - sneak onto an

offshore oil platform at the centre of a global gasoline conspiracy.

Goldfinger gags abound in the ensuing mayhem, raising hopes that

Lasseter has heeded the critics and upped the ante accordingly.

But once the action defaults to Radiator Springs, the movie springs a

leak, mostly by putting clueless hick Mater centre stage.

Yes, it is

Owen Wilson's hotshot racer who gets invited to compete in a World Grand

Prix that whisks him to Japan (Geishas, neon), Italy (Popemobile) and

Britain (Big Bentley, Tyre Bridge). But it's Mater who gets embroiled in

McMissile's mission, a convoluted caper involving alternative fuel,

millionaire mogul Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard) and rookie agent Holley

Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer).

Mater scuppering an assassination attempt in a Tokyo restroom. Mater

careering around an international airport. Mater infiltrating a villain

convention in elaborate disguise. Yes, we sure do get a lot of the

bumbling rust-bucket this time around, testing our patience for Larry

the Cable Guy's hillbilly schtick to braking point.

True, the picture is

punctuated by three thrilling race meets that find McQueen and

tutti-frutti nemesis Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro) justifying the

now obligatory 3D as they negotiate spectacular Scalextric-style

courses.

What should be highlights though have more than a clutch of

afterthought, particularly during an extended London-set climax more

interested in the plastic attached to Mater's carburettor (some days you

just can't get rid of a bomb!) than who gets to the finish line first.

Cars' popularity with the kids ensures a large and enthusiastic audience

will turn up for the sequel.

Yet where Pixar's other films have

captivated across the board, Cars 2 could leave some grown-ups feeling

tired.

There's more going on than there was in Cars and the globe-trotting's agas. But compared to the pick of the Pixar pack, this is some way downthe grid.

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