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  • Audience-Alienating Premise:
    • The focus on Mater was seen as this by many, usurping the focus from Lightning and the rest of the gang.
    • The film's dominating spy thriller theme also left many baffled as to how it tied in with the events and characters of the previous film.
  • Awesome Music: Michael Giacchino.
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  • Bile Fascination: A mild case; after all, it is a Pixar movie. But as the Pixar movie with what is easily the worst critical reception in the studio's history, newcomers are likely to tune in simply to find out why.
  • Cliché Storm: One of the major complaints about this movie is the fact that the Cliché Storm element is taken to nigh painful extremes. The clichés were even more evident in Cars 2 because they were using action-movie clichés too, more notable than simple Pixar clichés.
  • Complete Monster: Sir Miles Axlerod and his Dragon Professor "Z" Zündapp are a pair of "lemon" cars who want power and to hurt all other cars simply because they were laughed at for being older models. After they buy up one of the world's largest oil reserves, Professor Z develops a weaponized camera that causes the alternative fuel Allinol to explode and decompose, and Axlerod orchestrates him to use it on the racers of the Grand World Prix, severely damaging the cars, to paint alternative fuels as dangerous and drive the world back to oil, which will enrich the villainous duo. Z personally murders two spies, crushing one and torturing then exploding the other, on Axlerod's orders before the two try to murder the last user of Allinol, Lightning McQueen, planning to make his best friend Tow Mater watch before killing him as well. When their weaponized camera fails, the two plant a bomb on Mater and try to detonate it in a pit stop, uncaring that it is filled with dozens of other cars, and even when their plan fails, Z spitefully activates a timer on the bomb to destroy whoever he can.
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  • Critical Dissonance: The sequel has been not very well received by critics, yet loved by its target audience. It also has a lot of appreciation from older fans who felt it was the Breather Episode they needed after the last three successive tearjerkers.
  • Ear Worm: Weezer's "You Might Think" from Cars 2 is upbeat, and very catchy. It's actually a cover of a song by... wait for it, The Cars.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Rod "Torque" Redline, the spy who gets blown up by the lemons early on in the movie has gained a fanbase for his style and cool design, as well as being voiced by Bruce Campbell. His popularity even made him a playable character in the tie-in games.
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop: To more conservative viewers, the sequel's "once big oil, always big oil" message might come across as one.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: After Cars 3 saved a little face for the series, many fans have simply ignored this film, and pretend that the third one is the only sequel. Made easier by the fact that this film's events have little, if any bearing on Cars 3, so one could logicially see the first film and have everything they need for the third one while skipping this one entirely.
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  • Foe Yay: Lightning and Francesco.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: In Argentina, Cars 2 was the highest-grossing film of 2011.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Narrowly averted: The weakness/trigger of the new fuel was supposed to be radiation but after the nuclear power plant meltdown in Japan they changed it to radio waves (as of John Lasseter's "Day in the Life" documentary).
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
  • Ho Yay: Mater puts together quite a day out for his best friend when he comes home, and even tries to infiltrate Lightning's date with Sally. They have a secret handshake that a bystander notices gets longer every time they do it. If that's not bad enough, at one point Lightning chases after Mater repeatedly yelling "You're the bomb." Yeah...
  • Idiot Plot: The whole plot hinges on the idea that Finn and Holley, two highly trained spies, are unable to tell that Mater is not the spy they're looking for despite him repeatedly stating he's not and saying and doing things that would have tipped off anyone reasonable.
  • Memetic Mutation:
  • Mis-blamed: While many people assume Disney forced Pixar to make the movie to drive merchandise sales, John Lasseter insisted this wasn't the case. Lasseter came up with the idea of a sequel starring Mater when he was promoting the first film.
  • Never Live It Down: As Pixar's first true critical flop up to that time, its reputation is one Pixar has a hard time distancing itself from, even with the infinitely better received movies to come long after its initial release.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Some of the Family-Unfriendly Deaths. Special mention must go to the death of Rod "Torque" Redline, who gets tortured for information by the villains, and then blown up. While his actual death is partially obscured as a reflection on a screen that's showing a picture of Mater, we get to see the explosion and the flames rising from his body. Not helped by the fact that it underscores an aversion of Never Say "Die".
  • No Problem with Licensed Games: The video game is seen as a fun experience with a large roster and great mechanics.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Celine Dephare, the only car in the entire universe with eyes on her headlights instead of her windshields.
  • Scapegoat Creator: Since John Lasseter actually conceived this sequel while on the press tour for the first film, he ended up being Kicked Upstairs as a result (he'd get kicked out at the end of the decade due to complaints of sexual misconduct).
  • Sequelitis: Many viewers and critics everywhere questioned the necessity of a sequel to what was seen as an unusually average movie for Pixar, and their views seem to have been vindicated after having seen the final product. Cars 3 was seen as such a massive improvement (if not an "apology" for this one) that viewers are now trying even harder to forget that this one even exists.
  • Signature Scene:
    • Lightning emerging from Ramone's paint booth in his redesign, complete with real working lights.
    • The start of the World Grand Prix race in Tokyo.
    • Mater trying on the many disguises.
    • Lightning and Mater bumping tires following Miles Axelrod's defeat.
    • Mater being knighted by the queen.
  • Signature Song: "You Might Think" and "Collision Of Worlds".
  • Snark Bait: The first Pixar film that crashes headlong into this trope, in true Sequelitis fashion. The rather questionable reasoning for its existence in the first place, the bizarre Genre Shift into spy thriller status, the "hour-long commercial" tone, the abundance of cliches, the rather controversial Mater being the protagonist and not McQueen, the misuse of Bruce Campbell, etc...It's not surprising to many people that Cars 3 is basically one long apology to the fans.
  • So Okay, It's Average: For some fans and reviews, while Car 2 isn't a masterpiece and do find the sudden action shift very odd while likewise disappointed with less focus on Lighting. They do cite it's not as bad as a lot of people keep claiming it to be and, despite the clumsy storytelling, it's still Pixar. The Cars like version of international locales are very creative and beautiful. And some of the action pieces are well directed (The opening in particular) while the points where the tension ramps up being likewise well executed. General consensus is that while it may not be required viewing within the series, it's a harmless watch if you're just curious.
  • Spiritual Adaptation
    • The movie makes a lot more sense if you consider it less a direct sequel to Cars and more of a feature-length adaptation of "Mater's Tall Tales," a series or shorts which aired on Disney Channel between the two films in which Mater would tell Lightning a tall tale, only for Lightning to not believe him and be disproved by the end.
    • It's also sometimes called "a DreamWorks Animation film made by Pixar". That isn't a compliment.
    • It's also called "a film made by DisneyToon Studios if John Lasseter didn't ban Direct-To-Video sequels".
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • When misleading trailers suggested that Lightning would also be mistaken for a spy and tag along with Mater and the others on the mission, many viewers were disappointed that he and the other characters sat out of the spy plot until the third act. And seeing that McQueen and Mater's strong friendship is meant to be the film's main emotional center, having Lightning join the main plot could have taken far better advantage of that.
    • And let's not even get started on poor Torque. Or Jason Isaacs as Red Shirt Leland Turbo, for that matter.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Rubbing salt into the wound for viewers annoyed by Mater, the rivalry between Lightning McQueen and Francesco Bernoulli is arguably a lot more interesting (and less grating) than the main story.
  • Too Cool to Live: Why would anyone cast Bruce Campbell as a superspy just to kill him off? Not to mention that poor British spy crushed into a cube in the beginning...
  • Tough Act to Follow: Even if the movie was more positively received, it still would have been considered very underwhelming compared to Up and especially Toy Story 3 before it.
  • Uncanny Valley:
    • In Paris, Mater comes across a car that has its eyes in its headlights instead of on the windshield (a possible Take That! toward previous depictions of anthropomorphized cars). Mater and the audience are suitably horrified.
  • Unfortunate Implications: Stephen Krosecz of Animated Analysis argues that the heroes are prejudiced against the Lemon cars, that the film doesn't seem to treat this as a bad thing, and that one could interpret this as an ableist message.

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