It’s not often that a sequel surpasses the original in entertainment, but that’s just the case with Disney/Pixar’s “Cars 2,” which follows the first film’s lead characters on a worldwide action-filled caper. Having not been a fan of the 2006 original film “Cars,” I passed on seeing its sequel in theaters. But with the recent Blu-ray 3D home release, I’m happy I finally got a chance to watch it, as almost everything that turned me off about the original was left behind, leaving a solidly entertaining part two.
“Cars 2” isn’t perfect. It starts by introducing a new character, Finn McMissile – the James Bond of the “Cars” universe. He’s thrust into an action scene straight out of a Bond film, but it never feels genuine. It’s tough to pull for a character whom you’ve just met. And immediately following that encounter, the movie moves to Tow Mater (a rusty old pickup truck with a thick southern accent), the sterotypical bumbling idiot character and source of everything I didn’t like about the original film. I thought it was going to be the same movie all over again.
Fortunately, within a few minutes, “Cars 2” sets out on its own and that magic Pixar feeling is injected into the story and characters. Suddenly the spy story feels real, as does the action and emotion surrounding it. And throughout the film, Mater, who takes over the main character role from now-supporting Lightning McQueen, is still a bumbling idiot, but one with feelings and a heart. He becomes likable in a way he never was in the original.
The film features two intertwined story lines, one about a worldwide race set up to show off the capabilities of a new natural fuel for cars (who, obviously, exist instead of humans in this world), and the other a spy story following a mysterious plot and a secret weapon. Ultimately, the two stories intertwine for a grand, though predictable, finale. All the while, the ride (pardon the pun) is enjoyable, with each twist and turn (ahem) more entertaining than the previous.
“Cars 2” takes viewers on a dazzling trip around the world through Pixar’s eyes, with the “Cars” universe putting its spin on Japan, Paris, Italy, London, and other locales. The sweeping landscapes are stunning, particularly in the incredible level of detail added and animated in each scene. The film may not have many laugh-out-loud moments, but the visuals make up for it with some of Pixar’s best animation to date. “Cars 2” won’t make anyone tear up, but it does satisfy, even for those who aren’t fans of the original.
The new Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD / digital download combo pack does a fantastic job in showing off this film. “Cars 2” looks as crisp and clear as any Blu-ray release, even when viewed in 3D. Race scenes are particularly enjoyable in 3D, with it all presented in a wide aspect ratio, 2.39:1, delivering a true cinematic experience. Coupled with 7.1 surround audio, featuring plenty of engine rumbling, tire squealing, missile shooting, and other special effects, the whole presentation is flawless.
And if there was ever a home release that exemplifies everything fans desire in enhancing a movie, it’s this one. The main disc features two bonus featurettes, a “Cars Toon” called “Air Mater,” presented in 2D and 3D. It’s reasonably entertaining, but not nearly as much as the film itself. On the other hand, the included first-ever “Toy Story Toon” called “Hawaiian Vacation” is laugh-out-loud funny and a wonderful reunion with the popular “Toy Story 3” characters.
But beyond the main disc is an entirely separate Blu-ray disc packed with additional bonus features. They’re presented on a globe menu as destinations around the world, each with its own array of entertainment. Each has a “set exploration” or two – virtual fly-arounds of different locations seen in the film. These are mildly entertaining. But it’s the rest of the extras that are truly enjoyable.
Each global stop has interviews with Pixar employees, detailing what went into the making of “Cars 2,” down to the tiniest detail. From deciding race locations to character traits to extreme changes in the story, there’s nothing left out behind the scenes.
Radiator Springs features a four-minute alternate opening as well as telling the “Origins of Cars 2.” The Pacific features the making-of the opening scene in “Somewhere in the Pacific” as well as a look at the movie’s villains in “Making Lemon-Aides.” London has “Brawl at Big Bentley,” “Spyified” (what it means to be a spy in the “Cars” universe”) and one of several amusing “Spy Training” shorts starring Mater, Finn McMissile, and Holly Shiftwell.
Paris features storyboards of a deleted race scene, details of the “Streets of Paris”, and another “Spy Training” short. Munich offers two more deleted scenes as well as a quick snippet emphasizing one of the film’s best one-liners, “Mater-Hosen.”
Prague contains an interesting look at what could have become the opening of the movie instead of the spy scene. Porta Corsa describes how and why the fictional Italian city was created based on director John Lasseter’s own travels, along with two other extras, “Heart of Italy” and “International Insurance.”
Tokyo contains one of the most thrilling and unusual extras, the “Tokyo Race Extended Scene,” showcasing an uncut, dialogue-free, fully-rendered lap through the Tokyo race. These shots would ultimately be cut up and used in the film as primary shots or on background video displays during other shots, but they’re presented here in their entirety, with optional filmmaker commentary. Tokyo also features “Mater Takes Tokyo”, “Many Nations, One Race” World Grand Prix story, and another “Spy Training” short.
Finally, two unique extras in Emeryville (home of Pixar) show off Pixar’s own real life car show in “Motorama” and the making of a toy in “He Lives! Making the Finn McMissile Toy.”
There are also a few easter eggs to be found throughout the menu system by pressing up or down on the remote control.
It’s a staggering number of bonus features that offer hours of entertainment, most of which will be enjoyable for adults more than children. Kids will love “Cars 2,” but adult fas will be thrilled by seeing how Pixar put it all together.
The only negative is that this bonus Blu-ray disc only comes in the 3D combo pack, so those not interested in 3D will miss out by buying the 2D Blu-ray release.
But there is an incentive to buy into 3D, as this release also features a 3D trailer for Pixar’s next film, “Brave,” which based on this trailer is sure to be their first must-see film in 3D.
You can order the “Cars 2” five-disc 3D Blu-ray / DVD combo pack on Amazon.