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Critics pan Pixar’s “Cars 2!” Gasp! :-)

Of course, they panned “Cars,” as well… and Pixar laughed all the way to the bank! :-)

Cars 2” is in the theaters now, so, having seen it at Pixar’s theater in Emeryville last Sunday, I guess that I am allowed to talk about it now. :-) Critics have, apparently, PANNED it! 😮

A few words about critics:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt, “Citizenship in a Republic,”
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

Ahhhhh… I feel MUCH better now! :-) Critics sometimes remind me of some managers whom I have known who have no skills of any kind – no people skills and no organizational skills.

The LA Times quotes The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), ” ‘Cars 2’ Is a Dollar-Driven Edsel.” What can I say? WSJ is often wrong :-) about its narrow area of expertise: business. Why should we expect it to be correct about art?

WSJ notes that:

“In the five years since “Cars” was released, the movie has sold something in the neighborhood of $10 billion in merchandise—cute little cars, trucks and other vehicles that keep rolling off the toymakers’ assembly lines in epic numbers. To sustain such financial numbers—and to pave the way for next summer’s opening of a 12-acre Cars Land at Disney‘s California Adventure Park—Pixar and Disney, the animation studio’s relatively new owner, needed a hard-sell crowd-pleaser with exactly the sort of high-octane action and high-decibel soundtrack that energizes—or blights, depending on your point of view—’Cars 2.'”

Well, I can’t argue that merchandising of “Cars” was EXTREMELY profitable. I got to see a TINY little bit of the brand new building at Pixar that was purchased with such merchandising! But to read the WSJ review, which is, IMHO, a little sterile in itself, you would think the the Journal had something against MAKING MONEY! :-) Imagine that!

So let’s go back to the LA Times, which, despite its leftist leanings, I am beginning to consider the best newspaper, online and off, in California. At least today….

The reviewer, Patrick Goldstein, states:

“Monday morning quarterbacks will surely be wondering why Pixar guru John Lasseter decided to make a sequel for “Cars,” the least beloved of all the films in the Pixar universe, having scored a 70 at Rotten Tomatoes upon its release in 2006. As a host of critics have pointed out, the new film’s storyline takes a strange turn, largely abandoning the likable Lightning McQueen and focusing most of its narrative energy on the more one-note personality of Mater, who is voiced (in a wildly exaggerated Southern drawl) by Larry the Cable Guy.”

First off, Lightning McQueen is not “likable.” He is the sort of obnoxious little putz that many of us wind up with as our manager. The fact that Goldstein seems to like him says something about Goldstein. Mater, on the other hand, is genuine, and embraces that part of us that can be unsure, as well as courageous. I can understand that some folks would pan the original “Cars,” which is, after all, sort of a retrospective on the famous Route 66, which I traveled even before I fully understood its significance. As for Mater’s voice being “a wildly exaggerated Southern drawl,” I will say two things: 1) Goldstein needs to “get out more,” :-) and 2) at least Pixar did not need to put English subtitles onscreen when Mater speaks, as the Discovery Channel found necessary in the documentary, “Pig Bomb,” when REAL pig hunters in the U.S. state of Georgia were speaking! Exaggerated indeed! :-)

Personally, I found “Cars 2” to be enjoyable, if at times a bit loud. The story is merely “fun,” something that both kids and adults don’t get enough of these days. I did not view the film expecting Ingmar Bergman, and you should not either. In fact, Ingmar Bergman would likely prove a little “heavy” and perhaps “depressing” to a lot of the kids in the audience. The animation, of course, is INCREDIBLE! It becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish between the worlds that are built “from scratch” and the world that is photographed through the camera’s lens.

The LA Times reviewer leaves himself a way out (hedging against “defeat”), even if “Cars 2” becomes wildly profitable, both as a movie and as a vehicle for merchandising:

“The dismal reviews may not have a major impact on ‘Cars 2’s’ playability around the globe. But the reviews do put a damper on Pixar’s hopes to score another best animated feature Oscar, since voters this year have a number of other, higher-quality films to put on their ballots.

It would be way to early to worry about Pixar having run out of gas. But it just goes to show that when you start making sequels, you risk losing some of the spontaneity and storytelling invention that have been part and parcel of Pixar’s success. Lasseter and Co. managed to improve on the original ‘Toy Story’ with its sequels, but this time they seem to have hit a creative wall. And as we all know, when you hit a wall on the Grand Prix circuit, the results are not pretty.”

Let’s remember that it is not in Pixar’s “DNA” to keep making formulaic sequels – it is in Disney’s! Since businesses run on money, I see nothing wrong with Pixar making more. Hopefully, the entertainment value provided to the kids and adults who see “Cars 2” will more than exceed the price of their admission tickets. If so, it is a fair exchange.

It seems that, perhaps, only the critics, who likely received free admission, will feel shortchanged. But critics actually PRODUCE little or nothing…. After all, they are not “actually in the arena.” They are instead, “those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

-Bill at

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