Director: Brian Fee
Starring: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion, Armie Hammer, Margo Martindale, Kerry Washington, Larry the Cable Guy
I don’t know of too many people who were looking forward to a third Cars movie after the second one’s poor reception. It seemed a little unnecessary for Pixar to spend their time and talents with this franchise when they could be diving into new and original stories. I’d like to assume Cars 3 is the last we will see of Lightning McQueen and the gang as it ends on a high note. The world of race car driving is changing, and longtime champion Lightning McQueen (Wilson) may no longer have what it takes to stay in first place. Jackson Storm (Hammer) is the hottest new car on the track and is replacing Lightning as everyone’s favorite car. Lightning is feeling forced out of the sport as he watches many of his other friends retire. He looks back at the career of his mentor, Doc Hudson, who didn’t get the career comeback he deserved and doesn’t want the same fate. He heads to his sponsor Rusteze Racing Center to get a full makeover and head back into training mode to regain his status. Lightning’s new trainer, Cruz Ramirez (Alonzo), is an energetic young car that also has her own dreams of making it big as a race car.
Cars 3 is one of two Pixar films released this year with Coco coming out November 22. By the trailer alone, Coco looks to be more in line with what I like to see from Pixar. Cars 3 is their answer to the standard summer blockbuster franchise as it doesn’t have the deep, thought-provoking nature of their other movies. Its main goal is to energize and excite young kids in the same fashion a Fast and the Furious movie would for adults. Like every Pixar film, the animation is top-notch. The racing scenes looked so realistic that I thought I was watching an actual race. They continue to excel at pushing the boundaries of animation. The special effects needed to pull off the racing accidents are extremely impressive. The stunts will no doubt dazzle young kids who may be too young for an actual race at Indy or Daytona. Truth be told, I have never watched an actual race before, but Pixar may have piqued my interest.
The final Cars is good quality, wholesome family entertainment. It’s playful and fun watching Lightning get his groove back while getting into some trouble along the way. Owen Wilson returns to voice Lightning along with Larry the Cable Guy as his tow truck friend, Mater. I find that character to be fairly annoying and was relieved to find out he has minimal screen time for this movie. The third act comes with a bit of an aha moment for Lightning when he realizes his true calling. It has a really sweet ending that feels like the passing of the torch from one generation to the next. There are some touching moments with Lightning honoring and paying tribute to his mentor, Doc Hudson. The film uses archival audio of Paul Newman from the first film. For any parents or grandparents out there taking their kids to see Cars 3, this may be great reminder to go back and watch some Newman movies. It was refreshing to hear his voice again.
Cristela Alonzo is the big breakout star of the movie. She voices Cruz Ramirez, the young trainer to Lightning McQueen. Alonzo brings the same fun and zest that Ellen DeGeneres brought to Dory in Finding Nemo (2003) and Finding Dory (2016). Cruz proves to be a good role model for kids to believe in themselves when other people may not take you seriously. She never subsides to being the annoying sidekick like Mater or others often found in animated films. Also new to Cars 3 is Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion, Armie Hammer, Margo Martindale, and Kerry Washington. It’s a highly impressive roster of actors who typically take on darker material.
I mentioned in my review of The Good Dinosaur (2015) that Pixar has made so many innovative films that now it’s become harder for them to top some of their best work. They’ve pushed the bar on animation and take storytelling to new depths for children and their parents. Cars 2 (2011) is often thought of as their weakest film, but even their lesser films are still of higher quality than other kids movies. Cars 3 doesn’t aim too high to be original, but Pixar made car racing enjoyable and accessible to an amateur like myself. Boys and girls who love playing with toy cars and trucks will feel like they’re on an adventure with Lightning. No tears were shed like Up (2009) or Toy Story 3 (2010), but it ends in a heartwarming way.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? If this was the last Cars movie, it would end on a positive note.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS