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While CARS 2 ($40) may not be of the same high caliber as such Pixar titles as RATATOUILLE, WALL•E, UP or TOY STORY 3, it certainly didn’t deserve the critical drubbing it has received. Maybe Pixar’s own track record may be to blame; setting the bar way too high for some folks, and thus, the critics were less than impressed with the film’s simplicity… offering amusing spy spoof hijinks, in place of much grander storytelling. Personally, I was charmed by CARS 2, laughing at the visual gags and assorted jokes, while at the same time, being totally blown away by the fantastic visuals of Pixar’s computer animation. In fact, there wasn’t a moment when my jaw wasn’t agape, staring at the overwhelming beauty of just about each and every shot.

CARS 2 offers up a delightful homage to James Bond-esque adventures, with the least likely of character from the original CARS being mistaken for an American spy. As the film opens, we find four-time Piston Cup champion racecar Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) returning home to Radiator Springs, where he is reunited with his girlfriend Sally Carrera (voiced by Bonnie Hunt) and best friend Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy). Although Lightning has every intention of remaining in Radiator Springs for an extended and well deserved rest, televised taunts from Italian racecar Francesco Bernoulli (voiced by John Turturro), not to mention Mater’s loyalty to his best friend, result in Lighting’s participation in the World Grand Prix, which is being sponsored by tycoon Miles Axlerod (voiced by Eddie Izzard) to promote his green power, Allinol biofuel.

At Sally’s insistence, Lightning agrees to take the unsophisticated Mater along on this international racing tour. However, in Japan, Mater’s naďve tomfoolery costs Lightning the first leg of World Grand Prix, which threatens their friendship. Meanwhile, British spies Finn McMissile (voiced by Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (voiced by Emily Mortimer) are investigating Professor Zündapp (voiced by Thomas Kretschmann) and a criminal network comprised of various makes and models of "lemon" cars, which appear to be hatching some sort of scheme that is tied to World Grand Prix. When said British spies mistake Mater for an American operative, our rusting country bumpkin of a tow truck soon finds himself up to his carburetor in international intrigue and situations he is ill prepared to handle. So does Mater save the day, and more importantly, his friendship with Lightning McQueen? Answers to be found in the final reel of CARS 2. The vocal talent behind CARS 2 also features Jason Isaacs, Joe Mantegna, Tony Shalhoub, Paul Dooley, John Ratzenberger, Jeff Gordon, Lewis Hamilton, Darrell Waltrip, Brent Musburger, David Hobbs, Bruce Campbell, Franco Nero, Vanessa Redgrave, Cheech Marin, Katherine Helmond, Edie McClurg and Richard Kind.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment (and Pixar) has made CARS 2 available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. Coming off the original digital files, the 1080p presentation of CARS 2 is just about as visually perfect as perfect gets. The image is bright, colorful and utterly magnificent. Clarity, depth and detail are all of the highest caliber. Every subtle detail in the texture mapping of the digital objects and characters can be fully appreciated in this superb presentation. Color reproduction of all the eye-popping hues is utterly flawless. Blacks are pitch perfect, and the whites are pure. Contrast is as smooth as can be rendered in the digital realm. There is no grain and no imperfections in the image. Every frame of CARS 2 is a breathtaking visual revelation on Blu-ray, making this another demonstration quality disc from Disney and Pixar.

CARS 2 is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Like the visuals, CARS 2 delivers perfection in terms of its sonics. The sound design is punchy and aggressive when the material warrants, thoughtful and well devised during quieter sequences; this is in addition to being sly and slightly amusing at key moments. During racing sequences, sound effects zoom, zip and careen all around the soundstage in an effortless manner, while at other times all of the outlying channels remain engaged to create fully integrated sonic environments. Thanks to the lossless encode, fidelity is glorious, with both the music and sound effects reaping the enormous benefits. As for the bass channel, it is powerful and deep, without ever becoming excessive for the material. Voices have a warm, natural quality, plus the film’s dialogue is always completely understandable. An English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio ES track, plus Spanish 7.1 DTS-HD HR, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital EX, Mexican Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital EX tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as is an English descriptive track. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

Animation and sound serve to enhance the interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the extras. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with directors John Lasseter and Brad Lewis. Next up are a pair of Pixar shorts: Hawaiian Vacation features the TOY STORY gang, while Air Mater finds our favorite Tow Truck in another of his tall tales. Bonus Trailers close out the standard extras. Disc two offers a DVD copy of the movie for those who are on the fence about making the upgrade to Blu-ray.

While CARS 2 lacks the heart and the grander storytelling aspirations of the majority of Pixar’s animated films, it remains a perfectly amusing little spy spoof that certainly entertains (in addition to being visually jaw dropping). Sure, the story may not have hit one out of the park, but the Blu-ray presentation is homerun- delivering perfection in terms of high definition video and audio. If you are a fan, a Pixar completist or just looking for a new demo disc to feed your Blu-ray player, then CARS 2 gets the recommendation.


Cars 2 (Two-Disc Blu-ray / DVD Combo in Blu-ray Packaging) (2011)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2011 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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