Dan and I have been anxiously anticipating the opening of Cars 2. It’s been on our calendar for months. And the excitement in our house this morning to take our son to his first movie in the theaters was evident. Kellen was dressed in his Cars shirt (and underwear), and we had his Cars sippy cup (and a Cars pull-up, just in case) in my purse.
Our first stop was swim lessons, and then we were off. Kellen seemed a little hesitant when I told him about the huge movie screen (“scream” in 2 year old speak). But as soon as he saw the lights inside the theater doors, he lit up (pardon the pun). We gave him his ticket, which he gave to the attendant. And then we got our popcorn and some “lemdidade.”
The previews were just about to start as we took our seats.
And that’s when the whole experience fell apart.
In a theater full of preschool-aged children to see a movie we all expected to be appropriate for said age group, the first preview was for robots fighting. It was LOUD. And scary. And aggressive. Neither Dan nor I could understand how this preview was appropriate for a Pixar film.
And then there was another preview. And another. And another. And then Kellen said, “All done,” before the movie even started. And then when we finally thought the previews were all done, a Toy Story short film came on. By this point, even the thrill of popcorn and lemdidade had worn off.
Finally (finally!) Cars 2 started.
Within the first five minutes I was pretty sure we made a mistake. I should note here that I don’t like guns for kids. We don’t have toy guns in our house, and we don’t watch a lot of violence. Who would have thought that I would have needed to be so worried about a Pixar film? The opening sequence is filled with guns and violence and explosions. And quite frankly, it doesn’t get much better in the hour and a half that follows.
We love, LOVE Cars. But everything that was so endearing about the first movie is exceptionally absent from the sequel. It was James Bond or Mission Impossible with Cars instead of humans. And I would never let my two and a half year old watch those movies. I just can’t understand what Pixar was thinking, especially since it is such a deviation from their normal (and ultimately incredibly successful) collection of children’s movies. What I have admired about Pixar is their ability to make movies that appeal to such a broad audience, starting with toddlers, extending to the adults who sit through their movies time and time and time again. Cars 2 did not seem to have that same appeal. I don’t feel it was appropriate for my son. And the adult jokes that are usually sprinkled throughout were minor, extracting only a few chuckles from the hundred+ parents holding their children.
The other thing I found challenging about this movie is that there was a lot of talk and nuance about the spy thing that most of the kids didn’t seem to understand. And a number of the kids started to get restless. Several parents left the theater with their young children. And many of the older kids were standing up and seemed to have a hard time engaging with the story line. (Dan would also like to add that, “honestly, it just wasn’t that good.”)
There are a couple of redeeming moments in the end, and Disney still has a moment of self-reflection and revelation, though it is mostly lost with the attempt to have such an action-packed film. I find that unfortunate because it’s one of the reasons I love Finding Nemo and Shrek and Toy Story so much.
We actually left before the end was completely wrapped up (though I did notice there was a tie-in with the Mater’s Tall Tales idea as we were heading to the bathroom). I think Kellen was scared more than anything. I thought taking him to Cars would make him talk endlessly for weeks about the movie theater. Instead, I worry it will be a year before he will let us go back. Fortunately Winnie the Pooh is coming out at some point next year. I’m pretty sure they can’t make that violent, though before today I would have said the same about Cars… and if they start with a preview of Terminator 6, I’m pretty sure it won’t matter how benign the movie ultimately is.
I know there are a number of other families going to see Cars this weekend. I’d love to hear your comments afterward. Am I overreacting? Did your children love it? Will you recommend it to other families?