This week sees the release of the latest Pixar movie in the UK, Cars 2 and we were lucky enough to see a sneak peak of the movie. Take a look at what we thought of it.

To start of with, this may be a first. Certainly a first for Pixar, where they managed to almost re-invent the characters of the first movie. In this movie, John Lasseter has taken the characters from the original, incorporated a raft of new ones and placed them all in a totally different genre. In the first we saw a very sports/racing orientated theme that created the much loved Cars but in this sequel, we move to the action packed and thrilling arena of the Spy movie.

Having already been released in the USA, I had read many reviews by US critics and was worried at what I was going to see. Many critics disliked the film, including Disney advocate and animation historian Leonard Matlin. The overall theme from their reviews? That this is the worst Pixar movie ever made! It is at this point that I must say that I am in no way trained to understand the finer points of a movie. I go along and enjoy it from a watchers point of view and not a critic. But, having seen the film it makes me wonder what sort of training these critics have really got. Instead of watching a film for finer points of a story or character development or even plot holes or realism I watched it for what it really is. A family animated movie about talking Cars who become involved in World racing and espionage. If you are going to see this film expecting down to Earth realism, don’t bother.

One of the joys of the original movie was its humour. Larry the Cable Guy brought a wonderfully, dim witted Mater and in this movie it is no exception. Pixar have understood that Mater became the most popular character from the original and have since brought us the spin off series, Mater’s Tall Tales. They therefore made the correct decision, I believe, to put Mater as the main protagonist in this movie. He is funnier than before and makes some fantastic cultural mistakes that bring some real laughs. Think of this as An Idiot Abroad for the family, but nowhere near as embarrassing.

John Lasseter had always said that the only way Pixar would make a sequel is if they could come up with a storyline equal to that of the original. It is difficult to compare the two as they are so different. True, the racing in the original is more action packed and exciting but this film uses the World Grand Prix as a vehicle for the bigger plot.

The first film was very much American based. Scenes went from rural America to the racing tracks of NASCAR but Cars 2 takes us on a World tour. The scenery for the film is stunning and the way in which animators have kept true to the areas portrayed in the film yet given then a car overhaul is truly spectacular. There are also some great sight gags and nods to previous movies that you could miss if you blink. It is that attention to detail that really sets Pixar apart from the other animation studios.

In the original movie we saw a lot of talking cars and trucks but the world didn’t really expand much beyond that. In this movie, Pixar have begun to make the Cars world a much more rounded world. Here, we see trains, planes and boats that all work in the same way. This really adds to the dimension of the movie and enforces that Pixar have got this film right.

The return of all the major actors to the sequel proves just how much they believed in it. The addition of some major new actors also adds to the calibre of the movie. Michael Caine plays a brilliant British spy, Finn McMissile alongside Emily Mortimer’s constantly wary Holly Shiftwell. Cameos are also a fun part of the movie with Lewis Hamilton lending his voice as well as a host of ex-racing drivers. Eddie Izzard also plays a slightly arrogant, environmentally friendly Land Rover, Miles Axelrod and John Turturro shows what makes him such a wonderful character actor with his likeable yet, unlikeable Francesco Bernoulli.

At just under 2 hours, this movie keeps you engaged. The action begins from the very first shot and, apart from a 20 minute period after the opening scene, keeps gets entertained and engaged. The beauty of a sequel means there is less time needed to set up characters and it can go straight in to the action. The 20 minutes that I mentioned a moment ago is necessary to set up the new storyline, it just needed to be done a little quicker.

A story is only as good as the scriptwriters who develop it and here is a great example of Pixar creating original storylines and developing them in to an original script. Many have complained that Pixar have used this movie as a way to force the issues of fossil fuel on to its audience. To be honest, I can see where their thoughts may have come from but there is no way that this film is designed to be a moral story. Yes it is there, but no way is it presented in the way WALL-E forced the issue of our destruction of the planet.

The storyline of Cars 2 is perfectly complimented by Michael Giacchino’s score. As much as I think Randy Newman is a perfect composer for Pixar, he would never have done as good a job as Michael Giacchino has with his spy inspired score. He had already proved his ability with The Incredibles and Mission Impossible III scores and this was almost a natural evolution for his style.

With every good movie there always has to be some downsides. I am still to find a movie I can call perfect and Cars 2 is no exception. If I am to be picky, there isn’t enough McQueen and although the racing element of the film is not the key part of the film it would have been nice to have seen a little more. At times, Mater was a little difficult to understand. I’m sure British people are difficult to understand to Americans but there was a few mumbles here and there that meant some moments of humour were possibly lost. I was really pleased to see Cars 2 step out of the USA and show the rest of the World. The posters released by Disney showed Italy, the UK, Tokyo and France. Each seemed to indicate races taken place but don’t be fooled. We actually see France for all of about 2 minutes before we enter the back alleys of a French market that looks generic enough to be anywhere in the world. It was disappointing to see so little of a country that was billed as a bigger part of the film. Now, I know the film is not design with grown ups in mind. Kids, especially younger ones, will not work out who the bad guy of the piece is but, rest assured, if you are a grown up you will work it out far too easily. It is a shame that they made it so obvious so early on as it would have been very easy to cover it up much better that they did. That was the one real thing that stuck with me after the film had finished.

Moving away from the film itself I wanted to share the 3D element with you. Yes, it is nice to see a film in 3D but I am still unimpressed with it as a film medium. It does not add any real element to the movie that it would give in 2D. The extra cost of the ticket does not warrant the difference you will get in experience.

Finally, I must mention the Toy Story short ‘Hawaiian Vacation’ that comes before the movie. It is given the banner title of a ‘Toy Story Toon’ giving some hint that this may be the first of many shorts produced by Pixar. It would be great to see more appear on the Disney Channel as this particular one is very, very funny.

I don’t agree with those critics that have pulled the film apart. It is not Pixar at its best but it is still a great film. Its fun, fast paced (most of the time) and most of all, entertaining. There is no serious subtext, no hidden agenda, just a 2 hour roller coaster designed to entertain the entire family. Miss it at your peril!

My rating: 3.5 out of 5