Cars 2: Conspiracy theory?

I hadn’t even realized a “Cars 2” was in the the making until political pundits got hot under the collar this week alleging some sort of conspiracy by the movie’s makers to push alternative energy sources.

The last time cars were of any great concern at our house, my son (now in college) was a toddler taken with Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go” book — plus all manner of construction trucks, real or playground version.

So naturally I had to see what all the fuss was about. I saw “Cars 2″ with Christopher — and a theater packed with kids from toddler to tween age – at Harkins Shea 14 Friday morning.

A little boy named Alex, there with his father (or very young grandfather), sat nearby — naming each “Cars 2″ character as it appeared, often adding an adorable “zoom” sound like a real car engine.

It was his first movie experience, and he came dressed for success. Think khaki pants, crisp white T-shirt and plaid hat with a brim all the way around. He looked to be about preschool age, and had trouble negotiating the theater seat until he got his hands on a booster seat.

Both Alex and his grown-up laughed heartily throughout, and it was great fun to hear their reactions to the movie’s many plot turns and action-adventure sequences. Reviewers have claimed the film is plodding and predictable, but I really enjoyed it.

Christopher offered two observations as we walked out of the theater after the credits rolled. First, that it seemed much more violent than the first “Cars” movie — with more guns, bombs, fires, explosions and such (though no one really gets hurt). And second, that the storyline about oil versus alternative fuels felt unnecessary.

We didn’t feel like we were watching a message movie. “Cars 2″ is a great visual romp. No more, no less. I’m not the least bit interested in cars or racing, but I loved seeing all the different makes, models and colors of cars. I’ve owned more than a few of the cars deemed “lemons” in the film.

The beauty of “Cars 2″ is its settings — a small American town, a large metropolis in Japan and three European cities. Plus all the landmarks you’d expect to see, but with an automotive twist. “Big Ben” in London, for example, becomes “Big Bentley.”

I loved the attention to detail. The pope (a car) inside his pope-mobile. The truck raking sand in a Japanese rock garden. The tiara on the British monarch car. Also the many depictions of arts and culture — live theater, musicians, museums and more. The credits even thank the orchestra for making the music sound so good.

Your kids might enjoy learning some of the easy foreign language vocabulary used in the film. It never hurts to know how to say “thank you” or “excuse me” when traveling, and the movie’s world travels vibe might motivate young kids to try their hand at some new words from other countries. (This assumes, of course, that they know the importance of good manners in English too.)

If there’s a message in this movie, it’s not that oil is evil. It’s that friendship is good, and that friends accept one another “dents” and all. I suppose it might be offensive to those who insist a rigorous “rugged individualist” approach should prevail. But I’m guessing most parents who see the film with their kids will welcome the themes of loyalty, acceptance and forgiveness.

– Lynn

Coming up: Family fun with Changing Hands, What a difference a summer makes

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