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Cars 3 Review

June 16, 2017 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
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Cars 3 Review  

Directed By: Brian Fee
Written By: Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson, Mike Rich, Brian Fee, Ben Queen, Eyal Podell and Jonathon E. Stewart
Runtime: 109 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated G

Owen Wilson – Lightning McQueen
Cristela Alonzo – Cruz Ramirez
Chris Cooper – Smokey
Armie Hammer – Jackson Storm
Nathan Fillion – Sterling
Larry the Cable Guy – Mater
Bonnie Hunt – Sally
Tony Shaloub – Luigi
Ray Magliozzi – Dusty
Kerry Washington – Natalie Certain
Bob Costas – Bob Cutlass
Bob Peterson – Chick Hicks

Pixar’s Cars series returns for one last ride in Cars 3. After the critically maligned Cars 2, Pixar opts to remove the polarizing character Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) from the plot and shifts focus back to Lightning McQueen (Wilson) for the franchise’s latest sequel. Instead, Pixar and its story team goes for a more personal story where Lightning has to face the specter of time like many professional athletes when they are getting toward the end of their careers. However, Cars 3 may not only symbolize the finite window athletes have to make their mark in sports, but Pixar’s own limits with this franchise as well.

The film opens with Lightning at the top of his game and the racing world. Things gradually take a turn for the worse as his longtime peers and colleagues started to get phased out in favor of faster, more high-tech car models. It’s a new age of racing, and even Lightning McQueen, who was once a young and flashy upstart, is yesterday’s news. The emergence of the New Age hotshot racer, Jackson Storm (Hammer), incites Lightning to mess up on the track, and he suffers a horrendous crash. Months later, Lightning is still feeling sorry for himself, and with encouragement from his girlfriend Sally (Hunt), he finally opts to get back to work. For Lightning, he will leave the sport on his terms. Lightning at first thinks the answer is going for newfound training methods at the high-tech facility for the new Rust-eze owner Sterling (Fillion). But Sterling is less interested in Lightning’s comeback story than he is profiting off the brand name of a once great racer. At first, Lightning crashes with his new trainer Cruz Ramirez (Alonzo), but there’s also the potential spark of a racer within her. While Lightning is desperate to become a competitive racer again, he will have to come to grips with his future when his tires can no longer hit the track.

For viewers who often find Mater annoying, they will be happy to know the character has been massively downplayed for this film. He’s relegated to the sidelines and background gags for the most part. The first trailer that debuted for Cars 3 last year hinted at a much darker and grittier story. That teaser was rather misleading as such dramatics are essentially jettisoned after the first act. Cars 3 does actually start in a promising manner, but once the main story gets going the film gets lost in what appear to be multiple, conflicting visions.

Cars 3 is a case of how Pixar’s habit of story by committee doesn’t always work out. The film has seven credited screenwriters, and it shows throughout the film. The story is adequate, but all that intense drama that’s set up by the first act is dropped fairly quickly. Maybe the Cars series isn’t the best setting to tell a story about a superstar athlete facing his own limits and mortality, but at least that might’ve been something different and interesting especially compared to the often ridiculous plot and themes of the second movie. The idea and irony of the former young hotshot racer Lightning becoming “old” and yesterday’s news for the racing world is actually very interesting. In many ways, Jackson Storm is arguably a mirror for Lightning at the beginning of the first movie. Rather than seizing on those opportunities, the film opts to focus on Lightning trying to adjust to new, fancy pants training methods. Instead of creating an interesting rival or antagonist through Jackson, the focus shifts to Sterling as the film’s main conflicting force.

Instead, the narrative shifts gears to focus on the relationship between Lighting and his new trainer, Cruz Ramirez. The direction for this relationship is a little predictable. Some of the moments of Lightning learning from his bond and friendship with Doc Hudson from the original film are touching in the way they often are in Pixar projects, but this is far from the best Pixar has to offer.

Where the film lacks is that the film falters in exploring Lightning and his established relationships. Sally, his girlfriend, is barely a presence in the film at all after the first act. Regardless of how problematic the second film was with Mater as the star of the show, the supporting characters from Radiator Springs didn’t come off as quite so marginalized. The new characters, such as Cruz Ramirez and Sterling, are serviceable, but the new characters also don’t leave a huge impression as new stars for the franchise.

In praise of the film, the animation is still top notch. The high level of detail the animators achieve throughout the film is amazing. A lot of the backgrounds look so detailed and realistic, you almost forget you are looking at animation.

As a family film, Cars 3 is perfectly passable and serviceable. The ultimate message is decent despite the way the film reaches that message in a rather disjointed fashion. However, if you were expecting some massive reaction to prove the last movie to prove that the Cars franchise can stand among other Pixar titans, the film falls short of that goal.

The final score: review Average
The 411
Cars 3 is a decent sequel, but after somewhat interesting trailers and marketing materials, the film fails to reach the heights of what was promised. Instead, Pixar has created a family film that's totally watchable and adequate. Kids will enjoy the film, and families likely will as well. However, the film suffers from having too many voices in the story room, and the narrative constantly loses focus.

article topics :

Cars 3, Pixar, Jeffrey Harris