24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Cars 2

With 'Cars 2,' has Pixar become like everyone else (and is that a bad thing)?

June 27, 2011 |  9:30 am

Cars2
For the last decade, Pixar has pulled off one of the great runs in movie history. Until this weekend, it had released eight films, and every single one of them became a runaway blockbuster (at least $200 million in domestic box office) and a critical darling (not a single one got below 70% on the Rotten Tomatoes website).

It was a run, like Joe DiMaggio in the batter's box or Roger Federer at a Grand Slam semifinal, that seemed impossible for the company to keep replicating, and seemed even less likely to ever be broken by anyone else. (It lasts even longer if you throw in the company's trio of 1990s movies, which didn't all hit $200 million but were financial successes just the same.)

But all hot spells must come to an end, and indeed, one of Pixar's two streaks ended this weekend. "Cars 2" did open to $68 million, putting it on pace for another $200-million gross. The movie, however, left critics cold, garnering only a 34% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as my colleagues Patrick Day and Rebecca Keegan note in an article in Monday's Los Angeles Times. 

Audiences came out, but they came out to a movie that, at least by one measure of quality, was muddling around down there with the rest of summer's moneymaking mediocrities. "Cars 2's" Rotten Tomatoes score was just half of its two-digit box-office total, a disparity that puts it in the same camp as "Green Lantern" (Rotten Tomatoes score: 26%. Opening-weekend: $53 million.)

In a way, the fact that "Cars 2" attracted audiences despite the weak reviews could feel more unsettling than if it had performed poorly at the box office. The lesson of Pixar's long run has not only been that a massively sized, big-budget Hollywood operation can consistently create films of quality, but that this quality was integral to its success. Other studios often churn out indistinguishable, derivative entertainment that makes gobs of money. But at John Lasseter's Pixar, impeccable storytelling and huge popularity move in perfect alignment. The company puts out high-end films, and we come out because of that.

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Critical Mass: With 'Cars 2,' the critics' love affair with Pixar hits a rocky patch

June 24, 2011 |  1:53 pm

Cars2

Pixar has been around for 25 years now and made 12 feature films, all of which have been met with critical praise bordering on religious ecstasy. But "Cars 2" may have finally broken that streak. Though the film was co-directed by Pixar head honcho John Lasseter, the car-based sequel is getting some of the worst reviews of the animation studio's career.

Times critic Kenneth Turan appears to be in the minority camp with his rave. He says, "With engaging characters, a plot that ensures energy, and such a wealth of auto references ... 'Cars 2' has a smooth, easy way about it."

Let's just hope the staff of Pixar only reads the LAT.

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No Paul Newman or Doc Hudson in 'Cars 2' -- but watch for a tribute

March 1, 2011 | 11:41 am

Doc

Since Paul Newman died in 2008, "Cars" fans have wondered whether the actor would somehow make a posthumous voice appearance in the upcoming sequel, Nat King Cole-style.

John Lasseter, the Pixar chief creative officer and director of the movie, said that the studio debated incorporating the Doc Hudson character into the June 24 release but decided the best way to honor Newman would be to leave him out. "We have a lovely tribute to Paul in the movie," Lasseter told 24 Frames at the Oscars on Sunday. "But we didn't feel it would be right to include him or the character."

Lasseter didn't say how the film, which takes Lighting McQueen and Mater on an espionage adventure through the streets of Tokyo, would deal with the absence of Doc Hudson. Fans were particularly enamored with the character, a one-time champion car before a terrible accident ended its career. In his second life as a doctor, Hudson has become a respected town elder and guides a young Lightning, whom he sees as a little too close to his own hotshot younger self.

Previously,  Larry the Cable Guy (who voices Mater) had acknowledged there may be some kind of tribute to Newman during the credits. Knowing Pixar's penchant for Easter eggs, we wouldn't be surprised if that tribute makes its way into the film too.

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Paul Newman's Doc Hudson and Owen Wilson's Lightning McQueen in "Cars." Credit: Pixar Entertainment

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