Going against the Grain: Declaring My Love for Cars 2

By Veronika Heinrich

Every­body hates Cars 2 – and I just don’t under­stand why. First of all, let me make a con­fes­sion: I’m 25 years old and a Dis­ney nerd. I love watch­ing ani­mat­ed movies – as long as they’re well made. And Cars 2, even after more than ten years, is still my all-time feel-good movie.

It has every­thing you could wish for: Uplift­ing words, fun­ny jokes, and a world you can lose your­self in. There’s bare­ly any­thing that’s hate­ful or trig­ger­ing, and I love join­ing the char­ac­ters on their jour­ney. Yet, most crit­ics have char­ac­ter­ized Cars 2 as vio­lent and illog­i­cal, call­ing it the worst Pixar movie ever – and I just can’t wrap my head around it. How could I feel so dif­fer­ent­ly from every­one else?

When Cars 2 was released in 2011, it left me speech­less. It was prob­a­bly the first movie that ever dragged me into fan­dom and inspired me to write lit­tle, illus­trat­ed sto­ries about the char­ac­ters. Unlike the first movie, which focus­es on the arro­gant race car Light­ning McQueen (Owen Wil­son), this time around we fol­low his best friend, Tow Mater (Daniel Lawrence Whit­ney). He’s a tow truck from the coun­try­side and doesn’t know how to behave around upper-class peo­ple. When McQueen is invit­ed to a rac­ing com­pe­ti­tion, he brings Mater along and gets mad at him for embar­rass­ing him pub­licly, thus caus­ing him to lose the first race. They go their sep­a­rate ways, and Mater gets dragged into a con­spir­a­cy with the secret agents Finn McMis­sile (Michael Caine) and Hol­ley Shiftwell (Emi­ly Mortimer).

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Now back to the rea­sons I so much enjoy the movie. First off, the char­ac­ters are both adorable and relat­able. They act so human, more human than I’ve seen in many movies that actu­al­ly include humans. The fact that they make mis­takes and get angry makes the movie more real­is­tic and teach­es the audi­ence impor­tant lessons, for exam­ple when the uncle of McQueen’s friend says:

You know, back when Gui­do and Lui­gi used to work for me, they would fight over every­thing. They fight over what Fer­rari was the best Fer­rari; which one of them looked more like a Fer­rari. There were even some non-Fer­rari fights. So, I tell them, “E va bene. It’s okay to fight. Every­body fights now and then, espe­cial­ly best friends. But you got­ta make up fast. No fight’s more impor­tant than friendship.

Sec­ond, some peo­ple com­plain about the death rate in Cars 2 and its dark themes in gen­er­al. I ask myself how those could be poten­tial­ly harm­ful to chil­dren. Since they’re just cars, most kids wouldn’t even under­stand they died; also, deaths are nev­er explic­it­ly shown, just implied.

Apart from that, a lot of research, love, and cre­ativ­i­ty went into the design of the six coun­tries and cre­at­ed car-like ver­sions of the build­ings and land­scapes. The atten­tion to detail is aston­ish­ing. For exam­ple, they made the bot­tom part of the Eif­fel Tow­er look like a wheel and turned the pigeons into tiny planes. The film mak­ers also did an amaz­ing job when it comes to turn­ing spy gad­gets into items cars might use.

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Most film review­ers also crit­i­cize that the plot no longer focus­es on McQueen and the race but instead turns into a spy movie with Mater in the main role. I, on the oth­er hand, feel like it allows the char­ac­ters to grow and makes them more three-dimensional.

For me, Cars 2 is the per­fect sequel to the first movie, widen­ing its con­text. Just because Cars 2 has a very dif­fer­ent feel­ing from the orig­i­nal movie doesn’t mean that the sequel is infe­ri­or. This ani­mat­ed film got me from the first sec­ond on, and if you haven’t seen it – why don’t you give it a try?

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