MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Cars 2,’ 3.5 out of 5 stars

Cars 2 is a fine movie. In fact it’s very entertaining. It’s just that there’s no magic this time around. It’s good; but coming from Pixar you just expect it to be awesome.

The sequel to the original Cars has our uber-vanilla hero, a anthropomorphic hot rod named Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson), jetting around the globe to compete in Japan, Italy and London. But McQueen soon takes a backseat (pun very much intended) to tow truck buddy Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy) who moves things from a racing flick to a James Bond inspired spy thriller. The two plots are tied together by an international conspiracy headed by Gremlins and Pacers and there’s a rather muddled message about alternative fuel, both of which were a little hard to follow, especially for a children’s movie.

Michael Caine voices the lead British spy car, a silver classic Aston Martin named Finn McMissile. It’s easy to go to far giving cars human attributes, but the original Cars did a fine job at it. This time, it crossed the line for me, especially with McMissile’s spy gadgetry. Maybe I’m just cranky. And even if the spy gimics got old, listening to Michael Caine’s voice never does.

But still, this is Pixar so the animation is amazing (we saw it in 3D but it didn’t really add anything). Kids will like the bright colors and funny voices, and adults will have fun picking out all the various automotive jokes sprinkled liberally throughout (Big Ben in London is now Big Bentley, among a thousand others).

Thinking way too hard: At the end of Cars 2, I’m struck with the same question I had leaving Cars: There are old cars, and there are new cars. The cars all have parents and are in love, but how do they reproduce? When a mommy and a daddy car love each other very much, do they just go to the factory and get a baby? Who made these cars in the first place?

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