Star racecar Lightning McQueen is used to being the center of attention, but in "Cars 2," the sequel to the immensely successful "Cars," tow truck Mater becomes the unwitting linchpin of the plot. We have hopes that "Cars 2" will not be to "Cars" what the Mustang II was to the Mustang, and our confidence is raised by the fact that Owen Wilson is returning as the voice of Lightning McQueen while Larry the Cable Guy is reprising his incomparable voicing of the rusty tow truck Mater. When Lightning and Mater journey overseas to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix -- which is slated to determine the world's fastest car -- Mater finds himself inexplicably enmeshed in international espionage, something for which he is laughably ill-equipped. Mater wants to help his buddy win the world championship race, but he also feels obligated to save the world by participating in a top-secret mission orchestrated by master British super spy Finn McMissile (ably voiced by Michael Caine). The aw-shucks tow truck is further distracted by sexy and curvaceous Holley Shiftwell (voiced by Emily Mortimer), who happens to be a spy-in-training with a body that just won't quit.

The film is directed by Pixar leading light John Lasseter, and the voice cast includes performances by Bonnie Hunt, Tony Shalhoub, Cheech Marin, Jason Isaacs, Joe Mantegna, Peter Jacobson and Thomas Kretschmann. Fueled with humor, action, and more than a little pathos, "Cars 2" is filled with a panoply of new cars/characters that threatens to delight moviegoers of all ages. Here’s some background on the cars coming to theaters June 24:

The Good Guys

Lightning McQueen
Lightning McQueen
Hometown: Radiator Springs, Carburetor County
Type: Specialty Racecar
Top Speed: 200 mph
Zero - 60 mph: 3.2 seconds
Engine Type: V8
Horsepower: 750

When we initially put Lightning McQueen through his paces, our initial take was he offered a lot of flash and a lot of speed, but no heart and no soul. But after spending more time with the hotshot then-rookie racecar, we found something more genuine lurked under the bright chrome and shiny sheetmetal. As he discovered himself, we discovered a warm heart beating under his hood. Now, five years later, after aborted retirement with Sally in the sleepy burg of Radiator Springs, we find that Lightning has worn well.

With a fresh custom paint job and real, working headlights, Lightning has been rejuvenated, and that is as it should be since he is bound for Japan, Italy and England to compete against the fastest cars in the world. The test of his racing skills is matched by the test of his friendship, as he comes to the aid of the affably dim-brained Mater, who finds himself over his head when it comes to international intrigue.

Tow Mater
Tow Mater
Hometown: Radiator Springs, Carburetor County
Type: Tow Truck
Top Speed: Bolts start flying off above 90 mph
Zero - 60 mph: Around 10 seconds (unless he's using rocket boosters)
Engine Type: V8 with two-barrel carburetor
Horsepower: 200 (on a good day)

In the first "Cars" movie, Tow Mater, referred to affectionately as Mater, became a fan favorite because of his big heart and sunny (if dim) disposition. As the proprietor of a towing service and salvage yard, Mater is in his element and has gained a certain status in the small town of Radiator Springs. It's hard to imagine the homely Mater being mistaken for an international secret agent, but when he travels overseas it happens.

Holley Shiftwell
Holley Shiftwell
Hometown: London, England
Type: Sports Coupe
Top Speed: 160 mph
Zero - 60 mph: 5.5 seconds
Engine Type: 3.5-liter turbocharged V6
Horsepower: 275

Shapely, curvaceous and purple - well, two out of three isn't bad, and once you see Holley Shiftwell's sleek lines you can immediately grasp her appeal. The sharp and beautiful Holley moves from desk agent to spy-in-training, and, as befitting a new model, she is filled with the latest high-tech equipment including hidden cameras, concealed weapons, and a telescoping utility arm. Her holographic pop-up display has to be seen to be appreciated.

Finn McMissile
Finn McMissile
Hometown: London, England
Type: Vintage English Coupe
Top Speed: 147 mph
Zero - 60 mph: 7 seconds
Engine Type: 4.2-liter straight 6 with triple 2v carburetors
Horsepower: 290

It is hard for a spy to age gracefully, and Finn McMissile is a master British spy in vintage coupe form. He's charming in an inherently British sort of way, and his stealth, intelligence and wiliness after years in the field enable him to make quick daredevil escapes despite the fact he is no spring chicken. Finn's design is sleek and timeless, so it might come as a surprise that he's also prepared for any tricky situation with an arsenal of ultra-cool gadgets. Among his special (ops) features are front and rear grappling hooks, a missile launcher, deployable magnetic explosives and a holographic disguise emitter. Though suave and debonair, he can also be a bit thick at times, like when he mistakes Mater for an undercover American agent.

The Bad Guys

Hometown: Kenosha, Wisconsin
Make/Model: 1975 AMC Pacer
Top Speed: 99 mph
Zero - 60 mph: 16 seconds
Engine Type: 232 c.i. straight 6 with two-barrel carburetor
Horsepower: 120
Hometown: Kenosha, Wisconsin
Make/Model: 1974 AMC Gremlin
Top Speed: 91 mph
Zero - 60 mph: 17 seconds
Engine Type: 232 c.i. straight 6 with one-barrel carburetor
Horsepower: A whopping 90 horsepower
Professor Z
Professor Z
Hometown: Baden-Baden, Germany
Top Speed: 50 mph (55 downhill)
0 - 50 mph: 12 seconds
Engine Type: 2-stroke single cylinder 250 cc
Horsepower: 14

The Announcers

Brent Mustangburger Brent Mustangburger
19641/2 Ford Mustang
Darrell Cartrip Darrell Cartrip
1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
David Hobbscap David Hobbscap
1963 Jaguar Lightweight E-Type


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