Blu-ray
Highly Recommended
4.5 stars
Amazon
$22.97
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Overall Grade
4.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
5 Stars
Supplements
2 Stars
High-Def Extras
4 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Cars 2 - 3D

Street Date:
November 1st, 2011
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
November 14th, 2011
Movie Release Year:
2011
Studio:
Disney/Buena Vista
Length:
106 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated G
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

Portions of this review appear in our coverage of the 2D set.

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

I'm always surprised at the vitriol aimed at the 'Cars' franchise. Friends and colleagues say these films are nothing more than a cynical, cheap, corporate merchandising cash grabs. And hey, you're entitled to that opinion if you feel that way. But whether or not you like these films, if you ever get a chance to see to director John Lasseter speak about 'Cars' or 'Cars 2,' you hear the gleeful words and see the excited eyes of a man who loves cars in his very soul. A man who played in a sandbox with toy cars and made up stories about them -- something he's still doing decades later. Hearing Mr. Lasseter and the whole Pixar team describe in detail the amount of effort that goes into making any of their films, including the 'Cars' movies, I don't get a whiff of cynicism. Sure, there are some very happy Disney bean counters, but personally, all I see on display here is passion.

But, does passion translate into a good movie?

'Cars 2' takes a cue from successful sequels like 'Aliens' by changing genres. Gone is the ode to Small Town Americana, and in its place we have a spy thriller parody set against an exotic international racing tournament sponsored by an alternate energy fuel. Beside genre, the big shift from 'Cars' to 'Cars 2' is the lead character. While NASCAR racer Lightning McQueen is still here, tow truck sidekick, Mater, takes center stage when his fish out of water antics get him mistaken for a spy. Afterword, Mater must (unwittingly) uncover a villainous conspiracy lead by a band of rogue Lemon cars are trying to seek revenge for years left on the scrap heap.

Mater is a divisive character. As voiced by Larry the Cable Guy, he is simple, clueless, distinctly American, and naïve. I see why some get tired with his clumsy shtick; to be honest, the movie plays out the mistaken identity gag for too long, which makes the real spies seem as dumb as Mater. But that structural issue aside, I generally like Mater. I've always been a fan of silly, clueless characters like Maxwell Smart, Mr. Magoo, and Mr. Bean. Sure, they're dumb and rude, but what makes these characters loveable is that they're really nice. Their naïve worldview is earnest and welcoming. There isn't a mean bone in Mater's body, and so he's a loveable goof. Bottom (or dividing) line, if you enjoy Mater, you'll enjoy 'Cars 2'. If not, then you'll probably find the experience tedious.

Mater aside, 'Cars 2' is also a terrific homage to spy films. All the genre pieces fit nicely, and the villains are unique to this car world. The action set pieces are as thrilling as any modern blockbuster, all while remaining visually creative and geographically coherent (something NOT seen in many modern blockbusters). On the big screen, and now on the small, the Cars universe is beautifully detailed. The cars look right, sound right, and all the buildings and landscapes ooze car culture and design in every frame. My hat's off to the hordes of artisans who broke their backs researching and animating all the minutia. There's a lot I like about 'Cars 2', especially for car nuts like myself (I could talk octane and displacement for hours -- much to my wife's chagrin).

The trouble, I suppose, for any Pixar film is the incredible work they've already done. Does 'Cars 2' compare to an 'Up' or 'Monsters, Inc.' or whatever your favorite Pixar film happens to be? Not in my humblest opinion. From the commentaries and documentaries, it's clear how much Pixar loves Mater and all the characters in this story, but I'm not sure they give the audience fresh reasons to fall in love with them again. The film simply assumes you already do. And while I’m predisposed to love talking cars, I don't necessarily love this movie. It's entertaining, beautiful, exciting, and very good, but Pixar has made so many AMAZING films that very good tends to, as the cliché dictates, pale in comparison. Visually though, Pixar continues to excel, besting all of its computer animation competitors.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

'Cars 2' comes to Blu-ray in two flavors: a two disc combo pack, and a five disc mega-mega-combo pack. This five disc edition includes a 2D and 3D disc for the film, a 2D disc for the bonus features found exclusively in this set, and then bonus DVD and Digital Copy discs, along with a 200 point DMR code. This set is packaged in a fat pack case, with a lenticular slipcover. The discs in this set are set for Region A/B/C playback.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Cars 2' in 3D starts out slow, but much like an all too familiar pod race, picks up steam, barrels through every obstacle, and provides thrilling visual entertainment, becoming the "go to" for a number of demo sequences. Presented in 1080p, this MVC encode is no lemon, even if you're one of those who think the film is.

The opening sequence of this film doesn't do this disc any justice. In fact, it's a 3D nightmare. Dark shots taking away depth and clarity, strong jagged edges, burning torches, a ghosting nightmare on almost any disc...it really is not the way to start any 3D film, even if the reticle effects were beyond neat and water splashes had a "wow" factor to them. However, once that sequence is over, this disc shines. Literally.

As we head to Radiator Springs, we get our first day shot, and it's enough to make jaws drop low enough to drive a car through them, anatomy be damned. It's amazing. The layers of weeds, the clarity in each little branch, the depth of picture, the absolute clarity of the mountains in the deepest layers, the sheer depth of picture, it's astonishing! Day shots bring no ghosts, no jaggies, no banding, no aliasing, no this, no that, no problems whatsoever, and daytime exteriors, particularly in this desert region, are by far the highlight of this film, as the doors get blown right off, and stay off. Colors are vibrant, vibrant, vibrant, and vibrant (did I mention vibrant, yet?), while detail levels stun, including fantastic reflections on the various characters with glossier paint jobs.

When we hit Japan, next, for the introduction sequence to the foreign land and the upcoming race, it's a new bit of demo material: night shot demo! The neon lights, the reflections on the wet road, the depth, the way the camera moves through shots adding to the 3D effect, the sheer amount of color and information on screen, it's spectacular! Italy brings some minor jaggies due to the architectural details, but it has some of the deepest looking shots in any 3D film I've ever seen, and the clarity is equally impressive, while the debut shots of the Italian race course are beyond stupendous in their depth and attention to minor detail.

The 3D effects in 'Cars 2' are a mixture of appreciable added layers and windows that don't have pop to them (yet still have so much depth and attention to the added dimension that it's hard to miss!) and stunning, fantastic moments with vehicles zipping to and fro, as this film was clearly designed to feature cars going in each and every direction, to keep you off guard and show how deep the picture can be.

So, chalk up a rough opening scene with non-stop visual perfection, and you have yourselves a go-to title. Disney's Blu-ray 3D success rate doesn't dip here, as this disc features some fascinatingly powerful, amazing shots. Simply put, it's the bomb.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The 7.1 DTS-HD MA surround track is pure auditory delight.

While not nearly as aggressive as something like a 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon', this track is filled with bombastic bass, perfect voice work, outstanding panning, and an array of discrete effects that will suck any listener into the world of 'Cars 2'. It's really hard to review perfection, because there are only so many compliments to be dolled out before resorting to clichés. As the second Pixar film to be mixed theatrically for 7.1, I found my ears enchanted by how the soundtrack doesn't bash in your brains, but rather invites you into its delicate world. The comedy and quiet scenes work just as well as the explosive action sequences and edge of your seat races. Every engine purr, tire squeal, metal crunch is expertly laid out along with the Michael Giacchino's spy-movie music score. If you love full 360-degree panning effects (that, you know, let everyone know you have 7.1), check out a moment early in the film where Mater's voice echoes as he warns people that the pistachio ice cream has turned; that's one of many fun moments in what will sure be highlight to any demo presentation.

Additional audio selections include English 5.1 DTS-HD MA ES, English Descriptive Video Service 2.0, English Dolby Digital 2.0, Espanol 7.1 DTS-HD HR, 5.1 Espanol Dolby Digital EX, and 5.1 Espanol Mexicano Dolby Digital EX.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

The two-disc edition of 'Cars 2' features only three bonus features, all found on the single BD50. It seems Bonus Content and HD exclusives are for those who shell out for the 5-Disc 3D edition. That being said, what you do have is both informative (for inquisitive fans) and adds a few laughs.

First, there is a fantastic Audio Commentary with directors John Lasseter and Brad Lewis, who talk at length and in depth about making the film and the 'Cars' universe. A must-listen for fans of the film and/or Pixar. Next, there are two short films. 'Hawaiian Vacation' (16x9 AVC MPEG-4 1080p / 6.1 DTS-HD MA, 6 Mins) played before 'Cars 2' theatrically, and is a fun short set in the 'Toy Story' universe (post 'Toy Story 3' in terms of timeline). And lastly, we have 'Air Mater' (16x9 AVC MPEG-4 1080p / 6.1 DTS-HD MA, 6 Mins), another one of Mater's 'Tall Tales'. It's a nice crossover between 'Cars' and the upcoming 'Planes' spinoff.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

Now for the good stuff. All of this material is exclusive to the 5-Disc edition of 'Cars 2'. Over two hours (if you look through all the Art Slideshows) of behind the scenes looks at set, world, story, and character designs. The fun part is that it's setup like a tour around the world, which each destination featuring unique content. If you don't like the world tour approach, each city has a Location Index, which will transport you to a single world map. While there tends to be a bit of back-patting in terms of how proud everyone is about this film, this overall package is rich in detail and all the hard work that went into creating the 'Cars 2' universe. Here's a breakdown of what you'll find:

  • 'The Pacific', (8 mins). 'Somewhere in the Pacific', 'Making Lemon-Aides', 'Oil Derrick Set Exploration', and an Art Slideshow make up the first stop on our world tour. Here we explore the story reasons behind opening on the water, how Pixar prepared the water effects, what went into designing the Lemon Villains, and a quick pan around the oil derrick.
  • 'Emeryville', (20 Mins). 'Motorama', 'He Lieves! Making the Finn McMissile Toy', 'Animation Pit Stop', 'US Domestic Teaser', and the 'US Domestic Trailer'. Pixar has an annual (and very unique) car show, followed by what goes into making the a Finn McMissile car toy (PS, now I want one!), all the little 'Cars 2' interstitials you may have seen on TV or in theatres, and the trailers.
  • 'Radiator Springs, (10 mins). A 'Tall Tale Deleted Scene', 'The Origin of Cars 2', 'Radiator Springs Set Exploration' and another Art Slideshow make up this stop on our tour. The Tall Tale is a deleted opening to 'Cars 2' (in storyboard form), and then John Lasseter talks about what places inspired him to make this film.
  • 'London', (15 Mins). 'Brawl at Big Bentley', 'Spyified', 'Spy Training: London', 'Big Bentley Set Exploration', 'Tower Bridge Set Exploration', 'The London Eye Set Exploration', 'Buckingham Palace Set Exploration', 'UK Trailer' and (you guessed it) another Art Slideshow. While most of this section is about the sets, there are some nice featurettes about visiting London and what that inspires in terms of the backgrounds. The research that goes into every set and landscape is detailed and astounding. 'Spyified' is about the spy movie genre homages and real world espionage elements used in the film.
  • 'Paris', (12 Mins). 'Paris Race Deleted Scene', 'Streets of Paris', 'Spy Training: Paris', 'Arc De Triomphe Set Exploration', 'Eiffel Tower Set Exploration', 'Paris Market Set Exploration' and an Art Slideshow. The Story Deleted Scene in Paris is about a Le Mans style endurance race, which would have showcased other alternate fuels as well as Mater ruining the race. Then, we follow the Pixar team to Paris as they research the scene that would get cut, and replaced with the scene where Mater and Holly and Finn McMissile go to Paris.
  • 'Munich', (8 mins). 'Germany Deleted Scene', 'Oktoberfest Deleted Scene', 'Mater-Hosen', 'German Trailer', and an Art Slideshow fill out the Munich stop on our tour. The film used to have five races, but two were cut: Paris, and this German one here that was going to be an off road race. The Oktoberfest scene was going to be the original version of what would become the Tokyo scenes.
  • 'Prague', (3 Mins). 'Prague Chase Alternate Opening' and an Art Slideshow are all we get here. Much like the Tall Tale, here's another attempt at an opening – this one a nod to spy films.
  • 'Porto Corsa', (14 Mins). 'Finding Porto Corsa', 'The Heart of Italy', 'International Insurance', 'Uncle Topolino's Square Set Exploration', and 'Porto Corsa Set Exploration'. The one place in the film not actually a real location (it's a blend of Monico and Porta Fino). This is a spectacular and vibrant location. Then we get to look at the design behind Uncle Topolino's village, Carsily.
  • 'Tokyo', (18 Mins). 'Tokyo, Lap One Extended Scene (with and without Filmmaker Commentary', 'Mater Takes Tokyo', 'Many Nations, One Race', 'Spy Training: Tokyo', 'Japanese Trailer', 'Museum Set Exploration', and Art Slideshow. This Extended Scene isn't necessarily new material, but it's the race without any of Mater's story cut in. Pretty fun. And beautiful. Then we dive into how Pixar designed the 'Cars' version of Tokyo to make it culturally accurate. There's also a nice feature about the different styles of race cars used in the film, as well as the many elements of Japan used in this race course.
  • 'Sneak Peek: The Nuts and Bolts of Cars Land', (7 Mins). Last, and separate from the world tour, there is a quick look into Cars Land, which will be opening at Disneyland Resort's California Adventure the summer of 2012. There will be three new attractions (Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, Luigi's Flying Tires, and Radiator Springs Racers) as well as the ability to walk through Radiator Springs. Check out the in-progress Cadillac Range rock formations, Cone themed Cone snack stands.


This 3D disc includes one exclusive bonus!

     
  • Air Mater 3D (HD, 5 min) - The Air Mater short also found on the 2D release is featured as the only extra on the Blu-ray 3D disc, in, naturally, 3D. The short doesn't have the best 3D video at first, but it clears up pretty darn good. Black Hawk down? Flying rednecks? A huge tease about the upcoming 'Planes' film? This short follows the same formula of every single 'Mater's Tall Tales' episode, but it's still fun, brainless as it is.
                                         
     
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Easter Eggs

From my understanding, there are three (but please let us know if you find any more!): 1) If you select The Pacific and push down, a short piece about the design and voice of Crabby (the boat in the first scene) pops up. 2) In Porto Corsa, press down on the remote to see Lightning McQueen and Mater watch an in-flight movie about Italy. 3) And lastly, press down on Tokyo to see another in-flight movie about Japan.

Final Thoughts

'Cars 2' became the first Pixar film to receive any real amount of negative reviews, but, in my humble opinion, it's an improvement over the lackluster original. It's fun, it's silly, it's cute, and even if it's a little bit over the top, it makes for a fantastic adventure. Disney has made this 3D combo pack the only way to get the supplements disc, but it's worth the price increase, as the 3D disc is demo once you get past the opening sequence. If you weren't a fan of 'Cars,' you never know, you may actually like this.

Or you'll hate it even more. Either way. This set comes with the highest of recommendations, though.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy
  • 5 disc combo pack
  • 2- BD50 discs, 1- BD25 disc
  • Region A/B/C

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/MVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.39:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • English Dolby Digital EX 5.1
  • Spanish Dolby Digital EX 5.1
  • Spanish DTS-HD HR 7.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH, Spanish

Supplements

  • Cars Toon Air Mater: All-New Short
  • Toy Story Toon Hawaiian Vacation: Theatrically Released Short
  • Audio Commentary with Director John Lasseter

Exclusive HD Content

  • World Tour: Interactive map featuring nine different locations seen in the film.
  • Sneak Peek: The Nuts and Bolts of Cars Land

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