Both me and my 10 y.o. daughter we liked this movie and we spend mostly pleasant cinema moment - but exactly as in the case of "Kung Fu Panda 2" earlier during the year we both agreed that this sequel was for many reasons inferior to the original. This is also the first Pixar movie ever that I did not totally adore - I liked it, but no more. Below you will find the reasons why - in my personal opinion - "Cars 2" is weaker than the original.
1. The story, part 1 - producers wanted a car/spy movie referring to James Bond franchise and they got it, but the price for it is a plot both complicated and - for the first time in Pixar's movies - simply stupid! Also, I am certain that smaller children who never watched any James Bond movies (or any spy movies for that matter) will not get the story and get confused. Which is more, all the shooting, crashing, exploding and bombing are in my modest opinion out of place in a kid's movie. And to complete the picture, there is even a quite scary scene of TORTURE and MURDER of a spy car by the bad guys!
2. The story, part 2 - I personally found that some elements of plot are quasi racist! The bad guys (or rather the bad cars) are all the obsolescent marks from countries of former East block (Zigoulis, Zastavas, Yugos, Trabants, etc.), who are ugly, cheap, frequently disfunctionning, leaking oil, etc. They are in fact the lowest proletariat in "Cars" world. Frankly it could be a good idea to make the movie about renovation of those old and rather pathetic cars (like converting them to more ecologic fuels) which could give them some kind of a future and a place in society - but instead they are presented as murderous villains! Now that is a great idea to show your little kids - if somebody is poor and down on his luck, speaks with foreign accent, looks foreign, wear used clothes and obviously suffers, he/she is obviously dangerous and must be destroyed by classy people!
3. Mater - he was an absolute delight in the first movie, as a simple (OK, really simple) village guy, amateur of simple pleasures, but who could at the right moment deliver a piece of deep wisdom coming not from his brain but from his genuinely good, honest heart; in this movie first he appears as a completely babbling idiot with bad manners - before turning into a super hero in the last five minutes as if he has been touched by a magic wand... That is a real let down for such a lovely and successful character...
4. All the wonderful and colourful four wheeled "people" from Radiator Springs appear just in cameos - the whole movie turns around Lightning McQueen, Mater, the two good spies, one Italian racing car and a horde of evil doers. Doc Hudson obviously couldn't be around anymore - but Sally, Red, Sarge, Fillmore, Luigi, Sheriff, Flo and others are almost inexistent.
5. More generally, the heart warming gentle message of the first movie is totally missing in action and the whole ending and plot solution seem totally artificial.
That being said, most kids should like this film, with all the racing and shooting appealing may be slightly more to the little boys than girls. Still, I think that children between 4 and 7 years will not understand much, they will probably get scared in some moments and I am afraid they will really not like the scene of torture and execution of car by the bad guys.
I felt a little bit sad leaving the cinema. Until now, Pixar managed to make a perfect run - from the first "Toy Story" to the "Toy Story 3" their movies brought something new, beautiful and precious in kids movies, to such point that even the grownups could enjoy them fully and learn some life lessons from them. "Cars 2" however is something different, made hastily, of lesser quality and even a little bit ugly in some moments - and it seems to me that it was made first and before all to help sell "Cars" merchandise... and it shows on the screen... I really hope that with "Brave" which is due for opening next year Pixar will come back to its former great shape.