Courtesy of PIXAR Animation.
Pixar studios has, and always will be the epitome of top-notch animation and immaculate storytelling. And even if their latest offering,“Cars 3,” was a sequel that nobody asked for, it still has the brand name plastered in the rear view.
I often struggle to understand that, over the span of 11 years, we have had three “Cars” films and not even a second “The Incredibles” - (rest assured, that hits theaters next Summer ) - and then I do a little research and find out Disney makes a fortune on merchandising and cross promotional material. Also, when you think about logistics, the animation for these films are so simple. There aren’t legs or arms to adjust and move, it’s just cars. Which is why the budget is also not breaking the bank as opposed to other Pixar films.
Nonetheless, we have “Cars 3,” and while I can’t really defend its existence or understand why we need a third film in this franchise to begin with, I suppose with its tires in motion, and slick animation, it more than fills the tank, and even zooms past the finish line (in terms of quality) over “Cars 2.”
As all of these films open, “Cars 3” finds the bright red, “Rustzee” sponsored, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) on the verge of another sure-fire victory in the empteenth race of his career. McQueen does have his loyal and trusted fanbase along for the ride, which includes the likes of franchise favorite (and scene stealer) Tow-Mater (Larry The Cable Guy) and his girlfriend/wife? Sally (Bonnie Hunt). And as the tagline of the movie suggested, “from this moment everything will change,” that saying proves true. As time has marched on for our fiery racing comrade, so does his age. All around him, his friends are retiring because they can’t compete with the new breed of race cars. It’s the next generation, with cars that can reach speeds of 200+ miles per hour. Among those hybrid style of mechanical beauty is Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) who zips on the track faster than any car in history. He is top of the line, and it forces McQueen into an identity crisis, and his ego ultimately gets the better of him.
After one of the worse Pixar crashes - (I’m serious this crash is tough to watch) - Lightning has to take a hiatus from racing, and after four months of intensive reconstruction, he wants back in. His path leads him to a new Rustzee testing facility, now owned by the hot-shot cadillac Sterling (Nathan Fillion). Their, he becomes equipped with multi-million dollar racing simulations, treadmills and one trainer named Cruise (Cristela Alonzo) a bright yellow sports car who spunks with great energy and attitude.
The film then becomes a montage of highlights to showcase the poster boy of racing, getting back on his feet.. Or tires. The important thing about “Cars 3” is that it checks all the boxes. A hero that has to be at his lowest before he can find redemption. Check. A story that’s been told before, but is updated just a smidge to make it look like we won’t notice. Check. A heroic third act conclusion that mirrors the ending of the first “Cars.” Check.
Director Brian Fee, pays homage to the era of modern day racing at it’s finest and even strikes up a nice tribute to Doc Hudson (who was played by the late Paul Newman in the original). The morals and values of this movie is what makes it better than “Cars 2.” It has an emotional pull and weight, especially between Cruise and McQueen (which is ideally, the Hudson and McQueen relationship of the first one). Some of the sequences are fun and inspired, like a demolition derby midway through the film, where McQueen and Cruise have to fight against a redneck dented bus called “Fritter.” The scene moves and flys by swiftly like all the cars on a racetrack.
And, in the end, while it feels like it could have benefited from a more nuanced antagonist and a touch more comedic flare, there is still a nice sense of closure here for fans of the series. Which makes this a perfect and redemptive beat to end our story for both the characters and the franchise as a whole. B