Review: Cars 2

As a sequel to a film that wasn't all that great in the first place, Cars 2 is a letdown: as this year's Pixar film it is a heartbreaking disappointment. And after Wall-e, Up and Toy Story 3, we are accustomed to the summer Pixar film being one of the very best of the year.

Expect grown men to be spotted leaving cinemas with a look of sad-eyed betrayal not seen since Indiana Jones and The Crystal Maze.

The Hangover II began the summer of old-fashioned bad sequels by being a virtual remake of the first one. Cars 2 broadens the scope by adopting two different Traditional Bad Sequel strategies. No.1 is taking the characters from the original and placing them in a new, exaggeratedly dramatic context. (Cars 2 is very similar to the typical 1970s British TV spin-off movie, i.e. George and Mildred which sent them off on holiday and had them outwitting hit-men or Are You Being Served?, which sent them on holiday and placed the staff of Grace Brothers in the middle of a revolution.)

When the film opens with Bond parody, Finn McMissile (Michael Caine), on a dangerous mission infiltrating a secret oil platform, your instinct is that this will turn out to be a film within a film opening and that we will soon cut to Lightening McQueen (Owen Wilson) and his other four wheeled friends sitting in the audience eating pop-corn. Sadly not.

Traditional Bad Sequel strategy No.2 is over inflating the role of a popular support character. Now McQueen has to play second fiddle to Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) the uncouth, country hick who is McQueen's best friend and also by far the most irritating and unentertaining character Pixar have ever come up with.

Giving this slack jaw yokel the lead role is like sidelining Roger Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me for the Red-neck sheriff character who appeared in Live And Let Die.

Why Cars 2? Well, as anyone who's paid out for a Lightening McQueen lunchbox knows, although the original film was only routinely successful in the cinemas, the DVD and merchandise has been enormous. But it is also because Pixar supremo John Lasseter really likes this world. Look at the beautiful detail with which his team have recreated cities like Tokyo and London – Cars 2 is like a grown man inviting everybody round to his shed to see his massive, intricate train set. After an unprecedented run of brilliance, Cars 2 is Pixar letting a little air out of the balloon.

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The support film is a Toy Story short which is great fun but a bit mundane compared to the wonderfully bold and innovative shorts that have accompanied recent releases.

The trailer for next year's Pixar film Brave, a Scottish- set mythical sword-based adventure, had the child in front of me in tears and, in 2013, there's a Monsters Inc sequel. It could be some time until a Pixar film amazes us.

CARS 2 (U)

Director: John Lasseter/Brad Lewis

With: The voices of Larry the Cable Guy, Owen Wilson, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Eddie Izzard and John Turturro

Length: 112 mins