Last night Muffin took me to see Cars 2 in 2D and it was utterly charming.
There has been a lot of bad press for this movie, but I found it thoroughly entertaining and visually stunning. While the Blue Collar Comedy Tour and slapstick comedy stuff doesn't do much for me, the story was sweet and the characters endearing and funny.
I think this movie has such poor reviews because people expect a certain amount of schlocky sentimentality from Pixar. Pixar movies almost always make me cry. When Steve and I saw Up we were blubbering like giant babies in the first 5 minutes, but all around us children sat in unmoved silence. Most of them have never loved someone only to lose them. They haven't made enough decisions to understand regret. It was the adults in the theater that wept in understanding of an old man's pain.
At the heart of it, the real reason critics object to Cars is that Pixar took the time to make a children's movie for children instead of making an adult's movie that is safe for children (TWICE, HARUMPH). I watch a lot of kid's movies and the Cars movies are among the best of those kid's movies that are truly intended for kids.
In Cars 2 we follow Tow Mater, by far the Cars character most beloved by children. Sure kids like his off-color jokes, but who would you rather love: the self-centered race car that always wins, or his stalwart friend who bumbles through life with a sunny outlook and tremendous honesty and kindness. Who among us prefers Frodo to Sam? Nobody. Tow Mater is the heart of Cars.
Furthermore, kids get Mater. They've been the butt of jokes. They've made mistakes and felt embarrassed. Tow Mater is the fat kid in class, and in Cars 2 Tow Mater gets the girl. Tow Mater saves the day. Tow Mater solves the mystery. Like Goonies and Monster Squad, Can't Buy Me Love and 16 Candles, in Cars 2 the dorks win.
There's nothing Americans love better than the little guy winning. We love to root for the underdog, so why is it that America's film critics can't love Tow Mater?
Because they couldn't see the greatness inside him either. America's critics underestimate Cars 2, in exactly the same way the characters in the movie underestimate Tow Mater. Maybe they should watch Cars 2 again because they simply didn't get it, unlike countless children.