A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Cars 2 is the fast-paced sequel to Pixar's hit movie Cars that's more like a kid-friendly James Bond action thriller than the original movie's fish-out-of-water adventure. There are more high-speed chases here than in the original and a surprising amount of gun violence; a couple of car characters are even killed, which makes the G rating a bit of a surprise. Expect a bit of mild language, including insults like "idiot" and "fool," as well as tame flirting between smitten cars. The movie's overall message of being true to yourself and loyal to your friends is coupled with an overt call for alternative fuel and environmentalism. Note: The 3-D version of the movie may make certain parts feel even more immediate and intense for some kids.
What's the story?
In Pixar's much-anticipated sequel to Cars, the focus shifts slightly off Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) onto his best friend, Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) in CARS 2. Challenged by an Italian Formula One car, Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro), Lightning agrees to join a World Grand Prix taking place in Japan, Italy, and England that's meant to show the world that alternative bio-fuel works just as well as regular gasoline. As the races begin, it's clear that someone is sabotaging the cars to blame the eco-friendly fuel. In a case of mistaken identity, Mater is unintentionally drawn into a British and American intelligence mission led by Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) to uncover who's behind the attacks. Mater needs to help stop the masterminds before Lightning becomes their next target.
Is it any good?
Pixar is the standard bearer for animated movies that appeal equally to children and adults, and this is no exception. There has yet to be a Pixar film that doesn't make more than $100 million or score a devoted following from both critics and audiences. The animation is gorgeous, the action sequences crisp, the voice acting impeccable, and the inside jokes funny. Cars 2 is not a masterpiece when stacked up against the Toy Story sequels, but it's a fun summer spectacle that will make kids think about what it means to really be yourself, even when there's pressure to change.
Mater is now the protagonist, and the world is the setting; while that expands the action and the automobile humor (geisha cars, the Queen as a vintage Rolls, and Prince Wheeliam as a Bentley), it does limit the amount of time that we spend with our old friends from Radiator Springs. Caine and Emily Mortimer are perfectly cast as the British intelligence agents who mistake Mater for an American spy, but in the end, this is Larry the Cable Guy's shining moment.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Cars 2 's message about being yourself, dents and all. How does this apply to Mater? Why are underdogs so much more satisfying to root for than characters who always win?
The first movie was a "fish out of water" story about a city slicker race car in a sleepy little town; how does the sequel use the same theme but focus on Mater?
What made kids want to see this movie -- the story or all the product tie-ins? Do kids want a product because Cars characters are pictured on it?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.