Unlike practically every other CG animation studio who make no qualms about their films being cash-ins, Pixar has always prided itself on its storytelling quality – after all “Quality is the best business plan” according to Pixar chief John Lasseter.
Yet amongst its well-groomed line-up, “Cars” has always been the black sheep of the flock. Both the least critically acclaimed and one of the poorer box-office performers, the film was still seen as a pretty good effort that really only disappoints when held up in comparison to rest of the company’s stellar line-up.
Where it excelled however was merchandising, the original has made an incredible and record-breaking near $10 billion in estimated sales in five years according to recent reports.
So now comes “Cars 2”, a film that seems designed as a vehicle (no pun intended) purely to please the company’s promotional partners and give them all a major influx of cash. It’s an unabashedly commercial venture from the studio, and a film that bares little resemblance to its originator – swapping out the old school and warm look at Americana with a globe-trotting, breakneck pace spy spoof with fart jokes.
The critics have responded appropriately – most of them have flunked it. Every Pixar feature film has scored a 91% or above on Rotten Tomatoes except for the original “Cars” at 74%. “Cars 2” on the other hand sits at 38% with an average rating of 5.4/10 – the first film from the studio to be classified as ‘Rotten’. That score is about the same as films like “Due Date,” “Spy Kids 3D” and “The Lizzie McGuire Movie”.
On Metacritic it has fared a little better with 58/100 – about the same as “Quantum of Solace”, “Shrek The Third,” “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” and “X-Men The Last Stand”.
Box-office wise though the original scored $60.1 million in its debut weekend and it’s expected the sequel will do similar business as there’s not the kind of anticipation for it as there was for say last year’s “Toy Story 3”.
Now comes your turn. After more than a decade of success, have Pixar finally stumbled? Is it a disaster, or is it simply a fun bit of escapism that deserves better than it’s getting. What do you think?