Yeah, Tokyo Mater! As the title might suggest, this is another short film spin-off featuring "Tow Mater", the twang-centric sidekick from Cars voiced by Larry the Cable Guy in perhaps his only likeable role. As any knee-high to a horse-fly Pixar fan can tell you, Mater has of late, but whyfor we know not, been telling a Tow Truck load of "Tall Tales" in these Pixar Shorts known as "Cars Toons". Here, our irascible wrecker entertains the young and old of Radiator Springs with a new story that ranges somewhere between exaggeration and absolute fallacy (as, clearly, is common with the hoodless one).
This particular tale details Mater's possibly hallucinated trip to Japan to get tricked out and win one of those tire-skidding street races against all those super-slick Nihon cars. Yeah, this one is an obvious spoof of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. So... yeah, a short parody of a silly speedster sequel starring that other guy from that "Blue Collar" show... I'll admit, it certainly doesn't SOUND like it would be worth watching.
Be that as it may, Tokyo Mater is a lot of fun and can be very funny. Oh, it's a goofy, silly kind of funny, but it's a very self-aware kind of silliness, much more in the vein of, say, the crazier Looney Tunes cartoons than your usual comparatively high-minded Pixar flick. And sometimes, silly is good!
The story goes from improbable to almost completely insane around the time the good-natured bumpkin that is Mater gets one of those "Pimp My Ride" extreme makeovers (showing off his super-shiny original blue, thanks, no doubt, to Rust-Eez). See, he has to get "pimped" in order to race the big-bad mondo-racer who rules those nifty, drifty Tokyo streets. And race him he does. And for those of you unsure whether the slow (in so very many ways) Tow Mater can pull a speed-demon routine without his good buddy Lightning McQueen, Lightning himself shows up, literally, from out of nowhere to help our boy out. This is in spite of the fact that the "Tall Tale" in question supposedly happened long before Mater and McQueen ever met! (And in spite of the fact that ol' Lightning's now voiced by Keith Ferguson!)
The whole thing rockets to a (literally) uncanny finish that you'll have to be Mater to believe. Sure it's more wacky than smart, but it's often hilarious and will probably interest the adults as much as the kids (well, most of the adults). Part of this is because of the fact that Tokyo Mater is, after all, a Pixar film and it's made by the same people (and systems) that are guaranteed to blow your mind in as many ways as they can. The John Lasseter and Rob Gibbs directed animation here is still second-to-none. Even if the story isn't for you, it's a treat for the eyes from start to finish, from the rich detail of the desert around rustic radiator springs to the sleek and stylized animated version of Tokyo. The ordinarily weathered and inadvertently textured Mater becomes a fantastically re-designed speedster with a reflective luster not unlike Lightning McQueen's own and the neon and electric glow of Tokyo is beautifully animated against the newly sleek hull of our formerly "stock" hero. The visuals are made even more spectacular when viewed as it was originally presented on the big screen: In stunning 3-D!
But this is, after all, a short. One that probably takes less time to watch than my ridiculously long review of the film has taken you to read. Much of what makes Pixar so great is the story-telling, not just the eye-popping visuals. Unlike Pixar flicks of similar length, Tokyo Mater isn't about a whole lot of depth and doesn't use its brief run-time to reach for any. For silly fun with some interesting in-jokes and brilliant animation, this is still a great film to check out on any sized screen and Cars fans should enjoy seeing (if not always hearing) some of their favorite characters. Four Stars out of Five for Tokyo Mater, the little Tow Truck that could! Call him silly, call him annoying, call him simple... but don't call him slow and don't call him stock! See you rollers in the next reel!
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