Summer has arrived and all bets are off! (Pixar drops the ball with Cars 2!)

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Summer has officially arrived! Slap on the sun screen, dust off the deck chairs and get ready to fight off nature as it invades your picnic on countless balmy summer evenings where the ice-cold cider will flow well into the night ably aided by the beautiful sounds of song and raucous merriment.

Sorry, I had my glasses stuck on ‘rose-tinted’. I would encourage you to seek out all of the above with the suffix ‘take a brolly’ attached to all of them. I remember summers where I escaped to a cinema screen to cool off from the heat and bask in its wonderfully cool air-conditioning, now it seems as good a place as any to shelter from a torrential soaking. Although to counter that incredibly old and nostalgic sounding last comment, I am forever the optimist. This year is going to be the one that breaks the spell; the halcyon days of water fights and wall to wall sunshine will return this year I’m convinced of it.

How do I know this? For a start I’ve booked a foreign holiday for the first time in ages, which means in the week of my absence you will be treated to the type of weather that gets people coming out with things like ‘stand pipe’ and ‘not since 1976’.

But the biggest indicator that all bets are off is that for the first time Pixar have completely dropped the ball on their latest film.

When Cars 2 was officially announced it left many people scratching their heads; it is widely considered the weakest of Pixar’s output, the setup seemed less orientated towards a sequel than say The Incredibles or Toy Story. Plus the very notion of the characters being cars mean they’re harder to like and not as cuddly as a Nemo or Bullseye. This time around, Lightning McQueen and Co. get out of Radiator Springs and jet around the globe on a grand prix while getting confused for spies.

It’s a shame but the film is put at a disadvantage before it has even begun. The animated short before the main event is the fantastic Hawaiian Vacation, involving the characters from Toy Story recreating Hawaii in their bedroom for Barbie and Ken when they fail to stow away on the family holiday. All the humour, creativity and love poured into those six minutes only go to highlight how diluted those things feel throughout the whole of Cars 2.

Unlike other Pixar creations everything is purely window dressing, the animation is outstanding, the racing fast and the environments vibrant. The 60s, James Bond style running throughout is brilliant. Unfortunately, there is no deftly handled script or plot to add to the brew as usual. Michael Caine’s secret agent Flint McMissile is the most welcome addition, but rather than demonstrating Caine’s innate flair for dry, comedic delivery he is largely reduced to impressive, if soulless, action set pieces and a Basil Exposition role.

The biggest misstep taken though is slyly shifting the focus from race car main character Lightning McQueen to his hapless comedy sidekick, tow truck Mater. The most irritating character from the previous instalment carries most of the film, something that has been largely hidden in the marketing campaign in the run-up to the film’s release. He was just about bearable in the few places he popped up last time, but having his fish-out-of-water, village idiot shtick made front and centre for most of the film is agonising to say the least.

Like I said though, I am an optimist at heart; everyone has a bad day at the office and given Pixar’s track record (har-de-har) I’m already looking forward to next year’s Brave.

Which leaves me to wish you a fantastic summer break; when we next meet we’ll know whether the aliens or cowboys won the day and if Super 8 really is just that. Although there’s always the risk the apes will have taken over by then and these questions will remain unanswered, buried deep beneath the Statue of Liberty.