Movies: Cars 3

Voices by: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion, Armie Hammer
Directed By: Brian Fee
Written By: Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson, Mike Rich (screenplay); Brian Fee, Ben Queen, Eyal Podell, Jonathon E. Stewart (story)
Pixar, 2017
G; 109 minutes
4.5 stars (out of 5)


I really enjoyed this movie, and I struggled over how many stars to give it. I might, with time and/or persuasion, think of it as a five-star film.

Truth is, I liked the first Cars movie, was indifferent to the second, and had no real expectations for this one. But of course it's when you have no high hopes that it's easy to be wowed. So many people really disliked Cars 2, almost anything would have been an improvement. However, Pixar still made a solid film that stands tall in its own right.

Going back to what worked before, the story here is that Lightning McQueen (Wilson) begins to lose races and suffers a crisis of confidence because of this. Younger, flashier cars with newer, better features are displacing McQueen's "generation." After a horrific crash, McQueen decides he just needs to train faster and harder, but it becomes increasingly clear that he has limits—he just isn't as fast as the rookies. So he needs to be smarter instead.

When his corporate sponsors are bought by a mud-flap billionaire, McQueen is assigned a personal trainer named Cruz Ramirez (Alonzo). But it's McQueen who teaches Cruz a thing or two about old-school ways of training. They survive a demolition derby and seek out Doc Hudson's old mentor Smokey (Cooper).

McQueen must win the first race of the season or be forced by his new owner to retire to a life of pitching products and selling his name.

There's nothing surprising here, no big twists; Cars 3 shows you the map well ahead of the journey. Still, it's an enjoyable ride. They do a fine job of making the demolition derby terrifying, and I, at least, am grateful for the lack of Mater in this installment. After hinging Cars 2 on him, someone finally figured out less is more when it comes to that particular sidekick character.

Still, while there are real jerks in this movie—McQueen's new boss, and the flashy new Jackson Storm—it lacks any real villain. This is more about becoming a better you than about beating anyone else. Which is fine, but may be lost on the younger crowd. In fact, I noticed a marked restlessness in the cinema whenever the story got quiet or introspective.

But there are plenty of races and racing scenes to keep the kids largely engaged. I, for one, would like to see it again in a cinema without a mostly juvenile audience to distract me. In short, this is easily my favorite of the Cars films, though that's not saying much. And I still have a lot of questions about the way this world of theirs functions. The Sistine Chapel is referenced and someone does a cover of a Bruce Springsteen song, so . . . People did exist at one time? Or in this parallel universe does the Sistine Chapel feature a mechanic creating the first car? Why is there a school bus if there are no children to ride it? Should a bus for cars be a car carrier? Cruz mentions going to school, too . . . Driving school? Do "young" cars drive on a learner's permit? How do they grow? I just . . . I know it's a kids' movie and all for fun, but some of these details really need to be hammered out.

Oh, and why in one scene does McQueen have functioning headlights? I thought they were stickers?


It would be easy to go down the rabbit hole. Try not to think about it too much. Just enjoy the show.

No comments: