While this Pixar sequel is supposed to be a second outing for the speed-racing Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and his tow buddy Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), launching them on the international racing circuit, in actuality it feels more like an animated Spy Kids knockoff with the sidekick as the lead. Somehow director John Lasseter has turned into Robert Rodriguez minus the mariachi mania, although the story could have used a power boost.
The by-the-numbers play of splitting McQueen and Mater up and sending Mater’s Robin off on his own as a countrified bumbling Rowan Atkinson must have seemed like pure genius in a pitch session, but someone should have recognized how beneath the talents and expectations of the Pixar brand this really was. There is simply not a spark of inspiration or emotional connection under the hood of this clunker.
And it should be noted that although Larry the Cable Guy is better heard than seen front and center, even with all of the distractions — the Big Oil villainy and the clean efficient vocal work from Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer — and an animated overhaul, he is not a star attraction. Grade: D