2 Isn't a Lemon. It's a Saab.
by Gary North: Restoring
Liberty With Three Short Laws
I took my
grandsons, ages 7 and 3, to see Cars 2. I was disappointed.
But so is every adult who sees it. The 3-year-old was so bored he
finally took off his 3-D glasses. He behaved himself, but he was
not into the movie. The 7-year-old, who can practically recite the
dialogue of Pixar movies, did not talk about the movie after it
was over when we went to McDonalds (where else?) to get the obligatory
happy meals (what else?). He can recite details of movies and video
games with paralyzing attention to detail.
He was ready
to see it again. But he did not talk about it.
these two watch Wall-E
with such rapt attention that they act out each scene. They watch
it over and over.
So, what went
wrong with Cars 2?
It wasn't the
anti-big oil plot, which is inserted only at the end, and is almost
an after-thought. Yes, the writer-director is your standard knee-jerk
liberal on the subject big oil and alternative energy. He jerked
his knee in full public view in an interview
in the Wall Street Journal. But the big oil connection
has so little connection to the story line that an adult has to
think through exactly what the motivation of the ultimate villain
was. "Convoluted" does not begin to describe it. There
is no way that a child will figure it out, or care.
The movie is
not a dud. It is a B in comparison with previous Pixar films.
We had expected another A.
Why isn't it
a dud? Because it stars Larry the Cable Guy and the never-ending
Michael Caine, who sounds just as good as he did in Zulu
The movie is
only peripherally about Lighting McQueen. It is about Mater, the
tow truck. This is reasonable. Mater dominates the short TV cartoons
that are tied to the Cars franchise. He was always more interesting
The key to
a captivating child's story is the moral benefit of overcoming some
challenge. The hero has a weakness of some kind, but through moral
strength and courage, which develop as the story goes on, he overcomes
the challenge. In Finding
Nemo, the father overcomes his paralyzing fears because
of his commitment to finding his son and bringing him home. In Monsters,
Inc., the monsters overcome their paralyzing fear of small
children for the sake of the children. They mature.
The most successful
Pixar films center on people who mature, except they aren't people.
The fear of Woody and the gang is that their child owner will mature,
leaving them behind. What child needs child's toys when he becomes
a teenager? In Toy
Story 3 one toy the villain never got over
the transition. He became morally warped. The movie's plot was resolved
by finding a new child for the toys to serve. This is also when
the toys finally mature. It is why the film is a tear-jerker. The
boy grows up. So do the toys. Childhood ends. (Well, not quite.
With so much money in sequels, there will be Toy Story 4.)
The most successful
Pixar stories are about service. Nemo's father serves Nemo. The
toys serve Andy. The monsters wind up serving the little girl.
a self-serving Lightning McQueen finds happiness by learning to
serve the people of Radiator Springs. They in turn find meaning
in serving him, the famous racer.
We see the
same plot in Doc
Hollywood (1991), a low-budget piece of fluff that is run
again and again on cable TV, because it always finds an audience.
The hot-shot would-be plastic surgeon winds up through a series
of wrong turns in Hicksville, which is populated with real people.
These people are in need. They have no money and no way to get out,
but they live in a place far off the beaten path where the good
life is still available. The hero dreams of getting to Hollywood
and becoming a clone of George Hamilton.
are a few traces of the service motif in Cars 2. Mater wants
to serve Lighting, but Lightning thinks he is just too stupid. The
story is about Mater becoming the hero through his bumbling ways,
but coupled with a specialist's knowledge of his job: why engines
break down. In his own field, he is a master. That is a good theme
for any age group. It can make for a good story. But Cars 2
has a weak story. It spends too much time on racing.
forgot the obvious: the key to the Cars franchise is not
racing. Racing is only the backdrop. The key to the franchise is
or should have been personal moral self-discovery.
There is no moral self-discovery in Cars 2. There is discovery
that Mater's homespun stupidity is offset by his specialist's insights,
but this is not a moral discovery. There are good guys and bad guys
battling for . . . what? Why? The story line is so convoluted that
it is resolved at the end without moral insight. It is about big
oil vs. humanity.
the rest of the article
North [send him mail]
is the author of Mises
on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com.
He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An
Economic Commentary on the Bible.
2011 Gary North
Best of Gary North