“Cars 2” Blows a Tire

Best buds Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater

Like most adults who love animated movies, I was as anxious as any of the preschoolers to see “Cars 2.”

“Cars” was such a wonderfully clever film. It had lovable characters, a cute plot, and taught all of us “kids” a great lesson about friendship. But we all know how sequels tend to go off-track and leave us wishing the studio Powers That Be had left well enough alone and stopped at one and done . . . even if there is plenty of money to be made with more toys.

“Cars 2,” unfortunately, takes one of those poor-sequel detours.

Secret agent Finn McMissile shoots at the bad guys.

The Pixar gang, which usually churns out great animated stuff for kids and adults alike, decided to move the action from homey Radiator Springs to racetracks in Japan, Italy, and England, as star race car Lightning McQueen vies for the new World Grand Prix title. McQueen takes his pal, rough-hewn Tow Mater, along, and suddenly the film is more about Mater than McQueen.

Maybe if Pixar had stopped there and tried to show how friendship can survive overseas amid lots of great racing and distractions, the movie might have stayed on track. But no. “Cars 2” is a spy movie with a somewhat heavy-handed environmental message (á la “Wall-E”), all of which probably wasn’t understood by most of the flick’s target audience of young kids.

Personally, I loved that Michael Caine voiced Finn McMissile, the vehicular version of 007. And seeing that the bad guys were lemons like the old AMC Gremlin and Pacer, which I so well remember, made me smile. But I could’ve done without the unnecessary politics and violence (not that cars really die when shot at).

Of course, if you’ve got young kids, you’ll go see “Cars 2.” Just don’t expect it to be as entertaining as “Cars.”

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