Cars 2 is fast, flashy and fun on a global scale. Lightning McQueen is back to retain his title as world’s number one race car. With trusty Mater and his team by his side, McQueen (Wilson) is challenged to compete in the first World Grand Prix, racing through Japan, Italy and London. Organised by a rich biofuel inventor, the race reveals some hidden agendas and exposes the greed of some oil tycoons.

Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), the loveable rogue with a few kinks in his engine, is torn between his responsibilities to Lightning and a top secret spy mission he gets dragged into. When he stumbles upon a spy exchanging information he gets roped into an intelligence mission orchestrated by Finn McMissile (Caine) and his model sidekick Holley (Mortimer). Unsure of where to turn, and what’s even really going on, he must bring order to the chaos.

Taking a look at John Lasseter’s previous outings (Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2 and Cars), it’s an impressive line-up. Any movie competing with an animated classic like Toy Story should be worried. And, unfortunately, Cars 2 doesn’t really match up. It struggles to compete with Toy Story - as it is directly aimed at the little ones - although the quality of the 3D experience and the CGI certainly enhances what’s on offer here. What it also does well is bring all of the same ideas to a different world.

The main problem lies with the story itself. As any child (and any child at heart disguised as a parent) will tell you, they want fast cars, big explosions and a happy ending thrown in for good measure. Cars 2 starts off with an interesting and big story, but quickly devolves into a number of twisting side stories which become hard to follow. Basing the movie on renewable energy, biofuel versus oil, is a mistake. Children most likely will not understand the idea, which ultimately is the good versus bad conflict driving the story.

Another mistake is the story’s seeming obsession with delivering a message. Honesty, friendship and trust are strewn throughout the movie like no one’s business, which is tedious for the adults.

The film does have a good comedic pulse and a bit of slapstick helps move the story along when needed. Travelling from country to country gives the story a much-needed boost and the cultural references are excellent, especially the overbearing Italian Mama, Japanese geisha and even the Queen herself as a car. One thing to note though, if you are not a fan of Larry the Cable Guy or his thick hillbilly accent, you better get used to it fast because it only intensifies throughout.

As a sequel it certainly does its job. It’s a high-octane, fast-paced movie with a great soundtrack. While not a timeless animated classic, it has enough slapstick, chuckles and last-minute rescues to keep the kids entertained for an afternoon.

Patrick Hanlon