Commentary 25 Jun 2011 08:38 am

Cars & Archie

Cars Too Much

- Cars 2 doesn’t seem to be getting the magic reviews that Toy Story 3 got.

At least that’s how it looks in New York.
Let’s take a look at a couple of the most obvious reviews.

A.O.Scott in the NYTimes wrote:

    Even without Mater’s nattering . . . “Cars 2” would be, by far, the loudest Pixar feature yet. The whine of engines and the rattle of gunfire (surprisingly frequent in a G-rated film) compete with the nonstop yakking to such an extent that Michael Giacchino’s score has to strain and blare to be heard. Perhaps after the exquisite silences in “Wall-E” and “Up,” the Pixar team wanted to open up the valves, kick up some dust and make some pop culture noise, leaving the poetry to someone else. Or maybe the company was tired of turning out one masterpiece after another and decided to coast for a while.

    “Cars 2” is certainly built to move merchandise — this series may surpass even the “Toy Story” films as an effective advertisement for licensed playthings — but it is notably lacking in soul or sublimity. . . It may be intriguing to imagine what our toys do when we leave them behind, but there is something irreducibly grim about an entire planet ruled by mass-produced consumer goods whose producers and consumers are nowhere around.

    But maybe I’m misinterpreting the movie and underestimating Pixar’s capacity for subversiveness. Maybe “Cars 2” is a dystopian allegory for an era of ecological anxiety.

    Or maybe not.

Joe Neumaier of the NY Daily News was the most positive, giving it three stars:

    With Porsches and Jaguars rolling out of Pixar annually, you can excuse some occasional clank and knock. So “Cars 2″ cruises in looking polished, and if there’s very little under the hood, it’s surely because this savvy and sensitive company has unapologetically made a movie for (very) young moviegoers.

    . . . whereas the first movie’s lessons about appreciating a slower pace and the way the world once lived contained Pixar’s trademark subtlety — junior division — the sequel’s message about standing by friends and remaining true to yourself is nice but, well, standard.

Kyle Smith of the NY Post was not as generous giving it 1½ stars:

    They said it couldn’t be done. But Pixar proved the yaysayers wrong when it made its first bad movie, “Cars.” Now it has worsted itself with the even more awful “Cars 2.”

    This international toy fair and pun emporium billed as a movie relies painfully on the redneckery of Larry the Cable Guy, an alleged but not proven comedian whose country corn-pone act makes Jeff Foxworthy look like Gore Vidal.

    . . . London billboard reading “Lassetyre,” a reference to the film’s director, John Lasseter, looks like a typo. Surely they meant Lassetired?

    In much the same way that a pleading nightclub comic might say, “Is anyone here from a foreign country?” “Cars 2″ makes a show of its globalism, zinging around the planet to mollify important markets — sorry, countries!

    Things are so dull, rote and humorless that when signboards in a European scene read “Mondiale Grand Prix,” I at first thought they said “Mondale Grand Prix,” which sounds like an unwanted award this movie could easily win.

But then maybe New York isn’t so different from the rest of the country; the film got a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes (not good). I have a free Academy screening coming up next week. I’m not sure if I’ll make it.

Archie on Display

The Chuck Jones Gallery, 232 Fifth Avenue, in the heart of San Diego’s famed Gaslamp District will showcase the original drawings of famed Archie’s Comics cartoonist, Henry “Scap” Scarpelli. The show will be on display July 21st through July 24th during Comic Con International.

Henry Scarpelli, a native New Yorker, studied at the School of the Visual Arts in Manhattan and after service in the U.S. Army landed his first job in the art department at General Features, a newspaper syndicate.

“We are thrilled to premiere the Scarpelli Estate’s collection of original Archie Comic’s drawings, both graphite and inked,” said Scott Dicken, vice-president of retail operations for Linda Jones Enterprises, the parent
company of the Chuck Jones Gallery, “from the hand of this master of the comic book panel. Henry Scarpelli’s work is without peer in the field of comedy cartooning.”

I was a fan of the Archie comics when I was younger, but that was in the days of Bob Montana’s handling of the comics. It would be a kick to see the original art for this comic strip, but I’m in New York with no plans t make it to San Diego. If you’re in the area, I’d urge you to check in to see the show.

Giant Puppets

- Aardman has teamed up with Nokia again. Last year they produced the world’s smallest bit of stop-motion puppet animation. This year they’re trying for the largest. (Something tells me they’ll succeed.) If you want to follow the blog for this project you can go here.

12 Responses to “Cars & Archie”

  1. on 25 Jun 2011 at 11:48 am 1.Elliot Cowan said …

    I don’t have a problem with the original Cars.
    It’s a lot like A Bug’s Life.
    Honest entertainment that isn’t begging us to cry.

  2. on 25 Jun 2011 at 2:11 pm 2.Marc said …

    I agree. Cars 2 was pretty painful, but I could sit thru the whole thing–unlike truly boring cartoons like the illusionist or my dog tulip.

  3. on 25 Jun 2011 at 10:39 pm 3.The Gee said …

    I’ve never been a huge fan of “Archie,” in any form. A casual connoisseur, maybe. Nah. My sister read those comics and while I read them, too, I couldn’t bring myself to like them as much as she did.

    I’m one of those guys who wants more Moose and Jughead* and less of the other characters. But, the art in most of the strips and comics does have a certain appeal to it. It’s simple, clean, solid and works extremely well for the humor.
    As for “Cars 2″….I really think that with that movie and the first one people seem to forget that kids watch cartoons, too. And, that there isn’t always a need for kids, especially boys, to have emotional attachments with the characters. This is especially true with adventure oriented cartoons.

    Let me put it this way, when I was a kid, there were certain movies you watched and which made you want to play later on. It didn’t matter if it was Tarzan, Godzilla or Star Wars. I could see how for kids today “Cars” and “Cars 2″ might make them want to play with toys.
    And, don’t blame Pixar for that, blame Flash Gordon serials for introducing Zap guns and George Lucas, post 1977, for ancillary sales and licensing.

    I mean, I didn’t feel like role-playing after watching “Old Yeller,” arguably a kids movie with emotional heft. But a racing movie? Hell yeah.

    So, I can’t see critical opinion mattering at all, about the film or the studio. It is missing the point of who might like the movie most. And, I am mainly considering the domestic audience here, not the international one.

    That written, I haven’t seen it and probably won’t.

    *a comic featuring those Jughead and Moose would have been the orignial “Dumb and Dumber.”

  4. on 26 Jun 2011 at 7:35 am 4.Michael said …

    . . . and if you’re making a movie for kids you should definitely not have your characters FIRING GUNS at each other! Better the cars should smoke. Lasseter is the director; he should know better.

  5. on 27 Jun 2011 at 8:21 am 5.Matt said …

    Put things like the recent post on “MR FUN”s website and the other various articles & snippets that surfaced about Cars 2 before its release into you perspective when judging this film. This was a difficult & troubled Pixar production and we all know and can see that.

    I note that a constant point in a lot of the criticism of the Cars films is the apparent distaste for the illogical or unappealing notion of a world full of talking cars who exist in a world so much like our own ‘Human’ world, but which is devoid of, well… us.

    For me this was never the problem, but I’m apparently in the minority.

    Lets be clear, in fictional creations you don’t let them get bogged down in a misguided search for explanations, validation & logic, and you certainly don’t kill your creative liberties via ‘critic over analysis’ and the extrapolation of ‘the fictional element or device’ in “real world” (IE: beyond the screen) terms. Why? Because it’s a movie, it’s a cartoon, what’s on the screen is to be seen as presented’

    But that then begs the question; is it the presentation that makes this all too illogical for a percentage of the audience? Or is it purely the premise that audience finds un-stomach-able about much of the Cars universe?

    The Cars franchise certainly isn’t the best of the Pixar bunch for a variety of complex reasons; the first being the word franchise. Everything else about it aside, I think the clearest statement about the core issue with this film in any review of it so far has been:

    “The writers seemed unconcerned with developing character, as opposed to belabouring it.” – Joe Morgenstern, The Walls Street Journal

  6. on 27 Jun 2011 at 11:05 am 6.The Gee said …

    “. . . and if you’re making a movie for kids you should definitely not have your characters FIRING GUNS at each other! Better the cars should smoke. Lasseter is the director; he should know better.”

    Well, first I thought I replied to this yesterday but I guess I didn’t submit it.

    And, while I tend to agree with you that the characters shouldn’t be firing guns at each other, I’d need to see it and the end result. The fact that “Cars 2″ got a G rating with that in it doesn’t make sense.

    I’ve read all the reviews you linked to and two others, and there is mention of the explosions and gunfire in them.

    The sad thing is that these days kids are probably unfazed by things like that. Surely, considering this is a CG flick, video games may have de-sensitized kids, and maybe parents, too, when it comes to guns firing in what they watch. And, then there’s probably a lot of other action cartoons on TV that are just as violent.

    For me, I’d be more concerned if the characters (all vehicles, right?) get shot and end up being damaged. It sounds stupid, I know.

  7. on 27 Jun 2011 at 11:08 am 7.The Gee said …

    p.s., sorry if that is sloppily written….the excessive pronouns might make it confusing…

  8. on 27 Jun 2011 at 11:46 pm 8.The Gee said …

    While the focus of that piece is on older kids, the interviews do show that they began playing when they were much younger. Keep in mind the most recent generations of parents grew up in the video game era, from arcade to home consoles to PC games.

    As it goes, when it comes to cartoons, the way I look at it is that there is Cartoon Violence. It isn’t exactly a horrible thing without consequence. What it is, like most people expect it to be, is an action which leads to a ridiculous outcome. Gun shots in “Rabbit Season” being a good example of that. We all know the tropes.

    I’m of the thought that the ONLY time cartoons should show the innards of a cartoon character, the meat and bones, is when it is an actual cut of meat, like a steak or a ham. Otherwise, the innards of a cartoon character have no lines that define anything, with the exception being maybe the inner head.

    Cartoons like “South Park” and the other prime time ones kind of relish in thinking the characters were designed outside AND inside and that the inside is funny if bones stick out and bleeding occurs. It only goes so far. And, some of the Anime I’ve seen goes even further, often on ones in slooow motion. sigh.

    So, as much as I’m typing a lot, I don’t know what to say about Cars 2 and it not substituting gunfire with something comical. But, I think young kids and their parents may not be as phased by it.

  9. on 28 Jun 2011 at 7:09 am 9.Michael said …

    Because it is animated, does not mean it’s designed for young children. Cars is designed to be seen by the very young – it’s a Pixar film. Because parents are slack when it comes to their young children watching violence doesn’t excuse ANY filmmaker. You’ll notice they don’t show smoking on screen anymore. It’s because of the political heat the film studios have gotten. Seeing smoking on screen causes smoking ni the young. Seeing violence on screen causes violent behjavior. It’s been proven already.

  10. on 29 Jun 2011 at 12:44 am 10.Mario NC said …

    It really bothers me that a lot of people defend Cars 2 with a superfluous comment like “it’s made for kids”. To be honest, I don’t think it even qualifies as a movie for small children: is excessively violent, convoluted and at times, mean-spirited. Is also too long. Children will surely enjoy it because it is full of explosions and colorful cars talking to each other. It is one of those films that never stops, not even for one second, there is always something happening in the screen, but it is boring and irrelevant. Also, it is difficult to accept a world populated by antropomorphic cars not because it is illogical (there are far more unusual premises in other films), the problem with Cars is that there isn’t a real jusitficacion behind the core concept.

    Lasseter linked the idea of cars as an integral element in American culture, with the story of route 66, something that more or less made sense in the context of the first movie. In the second one, creating a homage to spy movies which somehow relates to the main plot of a global race, while developing an ongoing narrative that deals with friendship and the oil crisis, feels like a real stretch to the logic of the audience. Cars 2 is actually two unfinished movies stick together with a weak gimmick (cars who can talk). It loud and a complete train-wreck (even though is not that bad). The backlash against Pixar is necesary and essential for their growth as an studio. To feel pity for them is a betrayal, the fans need to accept this facts and let it go. They can take it.

    And kudos for Marc, who wrote the most idiotic comment of the decade.

  11. on 29 Jun 2011 at 7:17 am 11.Michael said …

    Mario, I agree with you. I had the misfortune of seeing CARS 2 last night. Tedious doesn’t begin to describe the experience. The only entertaining part was that they had difficulty getting the 3D to work properly in the beginning, so they kept fiddling with the image until the projectionist realized he had the luminosity too high and darkened the picture.

    The film was loud, constant in battering the audience over the head, and boring. The story, as you said, didn’t stop, but that didn’t help the believability factor. The Michael Caine and Emma Mortimer cars are stuck in Big Ben. We follow her as she flies out the front of the clock, but we just notice him driving out the front door on the ground level. I wondered how the car got down the stairs. There are so many moments like this that you give up and just ride with the annoying story. (Unless you get up and leave as I should have done but couldn’t. I have to see the film to vote for animated feature, and this was an Academy screening.)

    No, the film is not for children. They tried hard by putting as many bathroom jokes in there as possible. Even to the point of say P.P. several times and pointedly making sure we “got” the joke. It’s a piece of crap, and I have new found respect for the critics who pulled the Rotten Tomatoes average down to a healthy 33%.

    Marc is free to attack independent animation. He did it because he is aware that I liked both films and wants to dig something in. All he showed was his own immaturity, and it wasn’t worth commenting on. Cars 1 or 2 can’t begin to touch the depth of either film he mentioned.

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