Disney and Pixar’s movie are usually more hit than miss, but the Cars franchise has always been one that falls somewhere in the middle. The first 2006 Cars movie was overly long (1 hour and 57 minutes) for an animated film. While the storytelling was solid, there wasn’t a lot of excitement to the story. However, the Cars-branded toys did fantastic. 2011’s Cars 2 aimed to become more action-packed by making the story more of a spy thriller. Unfortunately, the gamble didn’t really pay off as audiences and critics were not exactly fans of the production. Now in 2017, we have Cars 3; which really should be Cars 2 as it fits better with the original material. However, the story deals with subject matters that might not make much sense to its core audience and so, critics are once again divided.
The first Cars movie focused on a young and hip race car known as Lightning McQueen (Voiced by Owen Wilson) who is was prideful and selfish. On the road between races he found himself accidentally dropped off at the small town of Radiator Springs. After a series of events and trials, McQueen fell in love with the old town (and the residents therein) and ended up adopting it as his own.
Now, ten years later, McQueen’s ego is better aligned and he’s still racing, but he’s no longer the young car that he once was. On the track, he begins to see more “old timer” racers retire from racing as new “next-gen” racers take over the track including is new rival Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer). Add with the daily news sports statistical analyst reports from Natalie Certain (Kerry Washington), who believes “numbers don’t lie,” McQueen’s confidence in himself begins to wane.
McQueen then learns that his long-time sponsorship from Rust-eze has been sold to “business car” Mr. Sterling (Nathan Fillion) who welcomes McQueen to his new high-tech training center with open tires. There, he meets his new trainer, Cruz Ramirez (Cristel Alonzo) who wants to train McQueen more slowly than he would like. She is very knowledgeable about how to train cars using a racing simulator, but it becomes evident that she has had very little actual life experience on actual race tracks. Regardless, no matter how hard to the two them try, they can’t seem to beat Jackson Storm’s race time.
In the original Cars movie, McQueen was trained by legendary racer Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) but his character has passed away, so McQueen has flashbacks of the “good old days” with Hudson and then seeks to find Hudson’s trainer, Smokey (Chris Cooper) to hopefully get the inspiration he needs to win. While a nice touch to the story, Smokey’s presence just makes the movie longer than it needs to be.
Cars 3 is a good sequel to the first movie and maybe even better in terms of pacing. All the cars from the first film are here but some are reduced down to just a cameo and Cars 3 smartly cuts down on the use of Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) and saves him for scenes that really matter (his friendship with McQueen) instead of over-using the character for funny one-liners. Like all Pixar films, Cars 3 has a lot of heart and somewhat of a twist ending which feels a little incomplete, but overall, it has a nice message. The film also features a few new adventures like McQueen and Ramirez stumbling into a crazy eight competition by accident.
Oddly though, Cars 3 will probably mean more to older adults that young kids. McQueen represents older professionals who have a hard time competing with millennial workers invading their places of work. The older racers aren’t respected like they should be and the younger ones are just as obnoxious as McQueen was in the first film. Themes about growing old and sharing your talents with those younger than you will no doubt be lost on the under 10 crowd. Still, I think Cars 3 is superior to the first story.
As is the tradition, Cars 3 is shown with a brand new Pixar short. This one is simply named Lou and it brilliant if not a bit difficult to describe. The title come from three letters that have fallen off a “lost and found” box at a school’s playground. Apparently, there is a spirit being who lives in the box who takes the form of contents inside. When the children go back into school after recess, “Lou” races around the playground gathering up the any new lost items and returns them to the box. (And you thought the teachers or janitors did this!) When the kids come back out to play, Lou beckons them to his box to retrieve their items. One day, Lou notices a bully taking toys away from the other kids and is horrified
Lou is a fantastic short story that really preaches how it is greater to give than to receive (even if it is by force) and is almost better than Cars 3 despite its short running time. It’s sure to be a new favorite among many.
(Main Image: Disney/Pixar)
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.