Cars 2

Larry the Cable Guy, Owen Wilson, Michael Caine | G |

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ANIMATED

It's mildly ironic that it took a sequel about cars to prove that (nearly) flawless hitmaker Pixar is human. Wilson returns as hotshot hot rod Lightning McQueen, but Cars 2 belongs to Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), McQueen's dim-witted tow-truck pal caught in a baffling spy caper. Secret agents Finn McMissile (Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) draft Mater to bust a ring of gas guzzlers who, for some reason, like blowing up Grand Prix racers burning alternative fuel. The racing action is fun, but kids won't care about the environmental politics buried in the plot, which slow things down considerably. The real issue though is the tow truck in the room. Mater is sweet, but he's a gear grinder in anything more than small doses.

Bad Teacher

Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel R |

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REVIEWED BY LESLEY MESSER

COMEDY

Diaz boldly flaunts her R-rated comedy chops-along with her famous legs-as a lazy, gold-digging teacher convinced a boob job will land her the rich man of her dreams (Timberlake). To finance the surgery, she does whatever it takes. Diaz is profanely funny, but the movie often drags. (We get it-she's mean and smokes pot!) Timberlake, as a naive substitute teacher, comes across as an awkward oddball, while the heart of the movie is Segel, a sarcastic underdog with impeccable timing. But two TV stars score some of the biggest laughs: Modern Family's Eric Stonestreet as Diaz's roommate and The Office's Phyllis Smith as her wistful coworker. Both earn A pluses.

A Better Life

Demian Bichir, Jose Julian PG-13 |

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CRITIC'S CHOICE

DRAMA

Single father Carlos (Bichir) has an opportunity/problem: He can buy his boss's landscaping truck and make, yes, a better life for himself and his son Luis (the promising Julian). But the risks are huge for the illegal worker barely eking out a living in Los Angeles, while his son blows off school and flirts with gang life. Whatever you think of illegal immigration, see Bichir's performance (already garnering awards chatter). The way hope and despair flicker on his face all at once is a wonder.

Parking kids at Cars 2? Then come early for Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang in the cute short Hawaiian Vacation. When Ken and Barbie miss out on a tropical getaway, the toys bring Hawaii to them-complete with a traditional luau. (Don't worry: Hamm emerges unscathed.)

WHAT I LOVE THIS WEEK

BUCK

NOW PLAYING

Real-life horse whisperer Buck Brannaman gets a deserved doc. Plus, the scenery's brilliant.

CONAN O'BRIEN CAN'T STOP

Now playing

Intriguing doc on O'Brien's tour and his verging-on-desperate need to be around people, then get far away.

KATE WINSLET

CAST IN LABOR DAY

Winslet will play a mom who takes in a drifter (Josh Brolin) who's actually a killer. Edgy!

PETER SARSGAARD

ON PREPPING FOR MAKEUP

I'd go in at around 3 a.m., shave my head and my face and pour alcohol all over-which feels really good [laughs].

ON HIS GIANT PROSTHETIC HEAD

The sweat just comes down, down, down. It was vile. I would feel like crap, and then the minute the camera started rolling, I was having a blast.

ON THE REACTION FROM HIS WIFE, MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL

She has such enormous empathy. She came up and looked at it and said, "Do you get claustrophobic in there?"

ON TIM ROBBINS PLAYING HIS DAD

Tim gave me my first movie, Dead Man Walking. The guy who hires you is always gonna be your boss.