Over the past week, I have read two absolutely scathing reviews of Cars 2: one of which claimed the movie was setting Mater up as a terrible role model for children, and another which went so far as to say that Pixar was now in a free-fall due to the “critical failure” of this movie.
I just saw Cars 2 with my family, and we unanimously enjoyed it. Obviously a continuing story doesn’t have the same kind of feel as when you meet new characters for the first time. The bloom is a bit off the rose, so to speak. And the high-action spy-themed storyline is obviously geared more toward kids than the nostalgia-themed original. But it’s really fantastic to look at, the characters stay true to themselves (it’s primarily the Lightning-and-Mater show, withs only smaller appearances by the other “ensemble” characters), and the story was really fun to follow. My only concern, as a parent, was the amount of weapon-based violence at play, which some might find unsuitable for very small children. There’s also a bit less music used throughout, but that’s more a reflection of the faster pace of the story. After all, we’re not in Radiator Springs any more. But all-in-all, it was really fun to watch, and all of us — including my five-year-old and my teenager — had a great time.
In remembering the bad reviews Cars 2 has received, I have to wonder if this really is the future of movie reviews–where films are no longer discussed regarding their entertainment value but are simply dismissed as failures because they’re not perfect enough or important enough. I would much prefer to read intelligent reviews where the writer simply speaks from his or her own experience, rather than simply telling people not to see something just because they themselves didn’t like it. Granted, I generally love movies, so I almost always have something good to say about what I watch. But when I see something I didn’t enjoy, I at least try to explain what it was that *I* didn’t like, and why. For example, I have a thing where I may avoid a movie if I don’t like other characters an actor has portrayed–or vice versa. It’s why I can’t bring myself to see Green Lantern but I went to Pirates 4 without thinking twice. But that’s simply my perspective, and I own it.
In one of the reviews I read about Cars 2, the writer wrote about how horribly Mater was treating people simply because he was a dumb truck and didn’t know better, and how Lightning failed by not calling out his friend. But if you’re someone who has kids or has at least worked with kids, you know an underdog when you see one. Mater is just a kid, as he always is, trying to do his best and not meaning to mess things up. And Lightning gets mad because Mater wasn’t living up to his expectations, but later realizes he in fact was wrong–and willfully so. It’s all a matter of perspective, and I think Pixar had the kid perspective in mind, as they should have.
The bottom line is, perhaps movies would do better to be “examined” rather than “criticized” — and the critics who examine movies should lighten up a little and think outside their own heads once in a while. To quote a fictional critic, “the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.” In the meantime, go watch a movie, and have fun!