Lightning and Mater go International
Sequels are tough for any filmmaker, especially when the original-in this case, “Cars”-was such a surprisingly wonderful and landmark movie. But as John Lasseter and his team of massively creative creatives have proven with the “Toy Story” franchise, a solid family of characters can pull off a second round if given a strong storyline. Having been reintroduced to the original “all-car” cast, and having met some new and engaging “car-actors,” we can assure you “Cars 2” is as enthralling as the original.
Director, co-author, and Pixar CEO and creative director Lasseter always felt the “Cars” family was up for a second adventure, and this time he takes the crew onto the world motorsport stage. The characters head to the World Grand Prix championship series, featuring open-wheelers, Le Mans-style sport prototypes, and a restyled Lightning McQueen, who got new equipment suitable for the WGP’s wild road and rally courses in Japan, Italy, and England. Designer and hot rodder extraordinaire Chip Foose tooled up Lightning’s new look and hardware. Lightning gets a new rear wing, new rolling stock, fresh lettering and decals, and yes, he still wears his own special brand of “Lightning” graphics. “Kachow, kachow!” as he’s known to say.
Joining the original cast are race announcer Brent Mustangburger in the announcer booth at the Grand Prix, voiced by the real sportscaster Brent Musburger. Former racer and current F1 announcer David Hobbs voices an appropriately British Jaguar E-Type named David Hobbscap. Poor Mater is accidently identified as an international spy, which puts him in some unusual situations with the slinky, sexy sports car Holley Shiftwell, voiced by Emily Mortimer, and under the constant observation of Finn McMissile, a cross between a late 1950s Peerless sports coupe and an Aston Martin DB5. He’s ably voiced by the incomparable Sir Michael Caine. McMissile originally was developed for “Cars” as a character who was to appear in a movie that Lightning and Sally Carrera would see at the drive-in, but the scene was cut. Finn was remade into a suave, British secret-agent type, and he plays a major role in “Cars 2.”
Most voices from the original “Cars” return; you’ll hear Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt, Tony Shalhoub, Cheech Marin, and perennial Pixar good-luck charm John Ratzenberger. New for “2” are Joe Mantegna, Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero, Jeff Gordon, and Lewis Hamilton. Doc Hudson, played in the first film by the late Paul Newman, doesn’t return. Newman and Lasseter had become close friends, and as Doc played such a huge role in the original “Cars,” Lasseter felt Newman’s passing had to be addressed. “We knew long ago Paul was ailing and wouldn’t be able to be ‘Cars 2,’ so this film pays homage to Doc,” says Lasseter. “Without going into details and having to explain to crying kids that Doc had died, ‘2’ honors him in a sentimental and appropriate way.”
“Cars 2” is a much bigger film than the original, going well beyond the Southwestern desert palette of Radiator Springs, adding famous international locales including Big Ben, Notre Dame, and Japan’s neon-lit Ginza District. The flavors are decidedly Asian and Eurohip, said several of 2’s creators. There are so many details that fans will want to see the movie more than once.
We asked Lasseter if there was the potential for “Cars 3.” He chuckled and said, “I just can’t go there right now. We still have to finish this one and see how it does.” But he agreed that there’s “always room for another good story.”