Director: Brian Fee
Writers: Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich
Voice Cast: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Armie Hammer, Larry the Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt, Nathan Fillion, Margo Martindale, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Kerry Washington and Chris Cooper
Synopsis: Lighting McQueen sets out to prove to a new generation of racers that he’s still the best race car in the world.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
The Cars series is arguably the one series that isn’t beloved by fans. Whatever reason you have, Cars didn’t click with many and maybe it was because some knew the series was a lovechild of Pixar head John Lasseter. Personally, I didn’t mind the first Cars, but it definitely isn’t one of favorites, and Cars 2 was panned by not only critics but by fans as well – I didn’t see it. So I’ll admit that was a little reluctant to even watch Cars 3, but the first teaser that teased a potential darker film, of course not too dark since it’s a kids movie, peaked my curiosity. So, is Cars 3 worth driving out to see? Let’s dive in and find out.
Cars 3 follows Lighting McQueen (Owen Wilson) who is happily winning race after race and becoming a champion. However, when a new, and a more technologically advanced, racer in Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) comes into the scene and beats him in a race, everyone starts to question McQueen’s capability to be the star he once was. McQueen defiant in that idea pushes himself too far and crashes leaving his future in question, leaving Storm to take in all the glory. Lighting recovers and wants to get back into the scene leading him to trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo). Together they train to find Lighting’s confidence back, and even teach Cruz a thing or two as well.
Again, not having seen Cars 2, but knowing the film followed Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) rather than Lighting, it’s nice to see Lighting get the spotlight since he’s was the main character in the first film. Also, the story itself leads to a story we’ve seen before. It’s not just redemption that Lighting is looking for, but also where his legacy will leave him. Will he be the old timer among the technologically advanced race cars? Or will he overcome and show them that the old car still has some tricks?
Of course this leads to one of the other themes of the film that working together can lead to potentially great things. It doesn’t matter that technology can improve your performance – which Storm represents – and give you an edge, leaving the old ways behind isn’t always best thing to do, and doesn’t mean you’ll always win. It’s a nice message for a kids movie, especially nowadays, but it’s pretty safe messaged compared to other Pixar films. I’m not saying it doesn’t work, but again, it’s something that Pixar has somewhat touched on before.
The voice cast is fine, it’s hard to judge voice casting for me to be honest, but Armie Hammer does bring the passive-aggressive Jackson Storm to life. But the highlight could be Cristela Alonzo’s Cruz Ramirez. She brings a certain life to it all with her perky but tough attitude when she’s training other racers and then solely Lighting. However, her story does get fleshed out as the film goes on and for the better. One more voice casting I want to point out is Chris Cooper as Smokey, someone Lighting looks for since he trained his mentor Doc Hudson (Paul Newman). Cooper fills the void of the wise mentor well. Of course, Paul Newman sadly passed away, but his character plays an important role in Lighting’s journey in this film making the scene where people are talking about him resonate even more because it makes you think about Newman himself. Those scenes are probably my favorite because they are so touching.
All in all, I didn’t mind Cars 3 and was somewhat surprised especially since I’m not the biggest fan of the first film. Is the movie trying to sell toys? Yeah, probably, but some of the bigger and touching scenes do work very well. Lighting and Cruz’s story is what keeps the film driving – no pun intended – forward and it is something you are invested in until the end. Will Cars 3 change your mind about the series, I don’t know, but it is something you should be willing to try.
3.5 out of 5