This is not really a movie review. The boys and I just got back from watching Cars 2 at the theater, and overall, it was a fun, enjoyable adventure. As always, Pixar animation is top-notch and the voice-acting is excellent. Kudos for the cameo by Bruce Campbell, or should I say, Sam Axe.
N.B. Here there be limited spoilers, in case you haven't seen the film yet.
What I wanted to say, though is this:
Well into the movie a serious and grown-up character tells Mater, rather matter-of-factly, that he is an idiot and a fool, and that everyone thinks this of him, which is true. This, of course, upsets Mater terribly. But just a little while later in the film, his best friend Lightning McQueen, (unaware of the revelation Mater was given) tells Mater that he is fine just as he is, and that if other people don't like him, then they must change, not Mater. It's the tired old mantra of the self-esteem crowd: “Just Be Yourself”. Except that this is hogwash. We are given, via a flashback sequence, a montage of all the ways in this movie that Mater acted like a clown or did stupid and foolish things, and Mater momentarily at least feels badly about this, perhaps realizing that he could have acted differently. In short, Mater is given an opportunity to stop acting childish and begin to grow up.
But no. “Just be yourself,” his friends tell him; why would you want to be an adult when you are told it's OK to be perpetually immature?
This message of the movie I find much more disturbing than the in-your-face accusations leveled at “Big Oil”. Kids probably won't be personally affected by that, since international oil markets are not everyday fare for them. But they are affected by what others around them think of them, and while nobody likes to be laughed at or told they're foolish, this movie could have given them an example (like McQueen does in the first film) of someone taking some criticism, doing some critical self-reflection and then taking steps to change in a positive way.Instead he decides, judging by his actions, to continue being a fool.
As I said to my boys on the way home as we discussed this, sometimes it's OK to act silly and goofy, but at other times, we should act a little more grown up. Knowing the difference is called maturity.