For me, this was a disappointing second story following the original Cars in 2006, a film I loved.  In this version, the racer Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is supposed to be on vacation in Radiator Springs, but gets maneuvered into competing with pretty boy competitor Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturo) by his old friend Mater, the tow truck (Larry the Cable Guy) at the World Grand Prix race.  In this version, international intrigue in the form of spies and James Bond-like technology forms the major part of the story, and the race is actually secondary.  Michael Caine voices the role of one spy—the James Bond counterpart, Finn McMissile) and Emily Mortimer plays Holley Shiftwell, his younger partner who is expert in using the latest technology to uncover information and ferret out the bad guys.  The intrigue involves a shyster who has a special interest in sabotaging Sir Miles Axelrod’s (Eddie Izzard) efforts to provide the world with an alternative fuel.  An amusing part of the story has Mater—considered not to be particularly canny—serving as the primary aide for the spies, especially owing to his knowledge of car motors, which is stretching credibility a bit.

This film continues the theme of friendship and the importance of sticking with it during the hard times.  But there is little of the edification for young people that was in the earlier film, such as:  Demonstrating that there are consequences for bad behavior; the imposition of community service on those whose actions are anti-social; the importance of doing the best you can on jobs that are intended to compensate for your destructive acts; responsible city officials who see that justice is served; no special treatment just because a person is famous; the value in accepting help from others; the value of communities and the people in them, and respect for their history; and fairness and good sportsmanship.  

The second film takes a very different tack, and conveys the idea that good things happen out of the blue, rather than from ingenuity, hard work, or concern for the social good.  Technology springs forth magically whenever it is needed.  The rationale for alternative fuel versus fossil fuel is not explained in any detail at all.

I can see why some (older) viewers might find the spy thriller aspects highly entertaining, but I imagine that it will go over the heads of most of the younger kids in the audience.  Yet, the idea of cars being people is more attuned to this younger set than to the older.  Therefore, I see an inconsistency in the basic aims of the film.

Grade:  D

Donna R. Copeland