Friday Flicks: Will ‘Cars 2’ Get Out of Neutral?

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Grab some popcorn! NewsFeed’s Glen Levy brings you the movies you should check out (or avoid) this weekend.

Cars 2

Maybe it’s the elephant (or vehicle?) in the room but nobody ever seems to mention Pixar 2006’s offering, Cars, when discussing the sensational studio’s back catalog. But by just being another addition to the list of animated movies, rather than a standout example, it can’t possibly live with the likes of its siblings such as The Incredibles, Wall-E and the Toy Story trilogy.

Expectations shouldn’t be high for the inevitable sequel, which pulls up at a theater near you from this weekend. John Lasseter is on co-directing – or should that be driving? – duties with Brad Lewis in this tale of race car Lighting McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) and tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) going overseas to compete in the inaugural World Grand Prix. Lo and behold, it results in Mater getting implicated in a bout of international espionage, as he starts to transform into James Bond before our very eyes.

You wouldn’t expect Cars 2 to leave much of a lasting impression once you’ve sat through it and, back to that elephant, you don’t get to say that about too many movies by Pixar. At times, in fact, one wonders whether the idea behind the World Grand Prix was merely an excuse to render various global locations (in 3-D, natch) in beautiful fashion, while ensuring that the kids won’t have nightmares, à la certain moments in last year’s Toy Story 3. Fun for all the family, as they used to say, but it won’t be driving off with Best Animated Movie at the Oscars.

(MORE: The top 25 animated movies of all time)

Bad Teacher

Tagline: She Doesn’t Give an F

Here’s a lesson worth learning: Cameron Diaz recently overtook Julia Roberts to become the highest grossing actress of all time. If only that kind of overtaking was in Cars 2. But you could make the claim that this achievement is directly due to Diaz playing a succession of good characters (and that’s good in the sense of nice rather than well-acted). Who didn’t warm to her in the likes of There’s Something About Mary or Charlie’s Angels or even Shrek? But it’s hardly a spoiler alert to reveal that she’s the very opposite of what’s made her so successful in Bad Teacher. And you don’t need to have a high SAT score to see that the clue’s in the title.

And so she’s playing Elizabeth Halsey, an educator who doesn’t so much want to enhance her students’ sense of smarts but rather her bust size. What’s more, drinking, getting high and snagging a rich husband are key parts of her syllabus. She sets her sights on substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake who, you may recall, was once Diaz’s real-life beau), much to the dismay of Jason Segel’s character, Russell Gettis, who’s just waiting to be noticed (“Still a gym teacher?” she asks him at one point upon being asked out. “Then no.”) If you’ve done your homework, then you’ll know it’s nothing you won’t have seen before (the car-wash scene is proof positive of that) but the show is stolen by Halsey’s wonderfully named rival, Amy Squirrel, who really does know how to do bad. Even better is that the actress in question goes by the name of Lucy Punch, and she beats Diaz to it each and every time.

NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: It’s no Bad Santa, but Bad Teacher just about makes the grade.

(LIST: See why Cameron Diaz was one of TIME’s Heroes of the Environment)