Most of the things you've heard about Cars 2 are true. It's fast-paced. Action-packed. Full of Mater-in-a-foreign-country-making-a-fool-of-himself gags. It feels like a James Bond movie. However, it is missing one very important component we've learned to expect from Pixar films: heart.
The opening scene is by far the most spectacular, in which Finn McMissile makes a daring escape from an oil rig, complete with explosions, zip lines, and a roaring soundtrack.
Then, the film slowly goes downhill. Several scenes in, at the Wheel Well Hotel when Mater calls in to a talk show to defend Lightning McQueen's reputation, you find yourself asking yourself, "When is this going to end? C'mon, get to the point already!" I felt this numerous times during the movie, which not only took me out of the story, but made me rather annoyed. Very un-Pixar and poor storytelling.
But the movie's not all bad. Although you lose interest during some scenes, the plot keeps you intrigued for most of the film. You want to see Mater succeed, and you also empathize with his plight of always being the fool. It gives audience members a good message, which is to always be yourself (although the message could be taken a bit too far, for Lightning tells Mater to be himself even if he'll, say, ruin an important party or destroy a city). Also, when Lightning talks with Guido's uncle in Italy, the message gets to be very heavy-handed and obvious. In Ratatouille the message was artfully implied. WALL-E's basic moral had to be read between the lines of a robot love story. Toy Story 3's message was irreversibly intertwined with the story and plight of the characters. Cars 2's message was apparent, blatantly preached to the audience, and less impacting than that of any other Pixar film.
The score is wonderfully subtle with a different motif for each city, the animation is spectacular and hypnotizing, and the whole film was strewn with clever, city-specific jokes and gags. However, it was just missing that extra umph we've come to expect from Pixar--the heart. It felt more like a good DreamWorks movie than something under Lasseter's name. The main characters were interesting and intriguing, but every other character (including even Finn McMissile) were very flat and boring. The twist at the end is dry and predictable. I really, really wanted to like it, but I found myself wanting more. Perhaps I'm just comparing it with other Pixar films--after all, it's not that bad of a movie. Just a bad Pixar movie.
I give it a 6.5 out of 10.