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Cars 3 – Movie Review

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Cars 3 – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

Many wouldn’t call the Cars films Pixar’s most original offerings, but they offer their own charms thanks to the small town vehicles and impressive racing sequences. While Cars 2 went in its own direction by being a fast-paced action spy comedy, Cars 3 returns to the more laidback feel of the first film and it’s a pleasant ride. Director Brian Fee, taking over for series originator John Lasseter, presents a slower paced approach than one might expect. Yet it fits the story being told as Lightning McQueen dealing with the young hot shots driving past him on the track. There are some genuine plot turns here and Fee crafts a solid character piece.

The themes explored in Cars 3 will probably resonate most with older viewers. The film plays with the concept of the generational divide through McQueen’s fear of not wanting to be cast aside for the newer model. This is definitely the most car-centric film in the franchise in how the entire plot is focused so much on winning the big race. While the second film may have devoted far more time to Mater and not allowed McQueen much screen time to properly develop, he still feels like he’s progressed since the first time we were introduced to him in Cars. There is still a lot of that drive to be the best, but through touching flashbacks, we see how his famous mentor left an impact on him. Unused vocal recordings of Paul Newman are utilised for Doc Hudson’s dialogue and that adds an additional poignancy to the flashbacks. It is not merely Hudson, but also Newman who casts a shadow on the entire film.

McQueen’s new trainer Cruz Ramirez proves to be a necessary part of the story and learns a few lessons of her own. There are some solidly written interactions between these two, which provides both humourous banter and the expected pathos. Through her character, Fee and the Pixar team comment on the reliance on modern technology. Those even somewhat familiar with race car competitions will recognise further themes about how much influence computers should have on the racing experience. The screenplay also tackles the concept of corporations and their control over athletes. The commentary is not subtle, but it’s handled nicely and is used to develop the characters.

The biggest confusion gained from the previous Cars films was the inner workings of the universe. It has now become an element one just has to accept at this point, though Cars 3 does tone down some of the wilder aspects. The oddest element of this film is how Cars 2 is not touched upon. Mater the Tow Truck shows up to give his requisite country bumpkin dialogue, but nothing is made of his wacky spy adventure in the previous film. Pixar has prided itself in how it has made continuity matter in its sequels, so this is surprising. As expected, Pixar’s animation is outstanding with the racing sequences once again serving as a highlight of this series. Pixar’s backgrounds have gotten scarily realistic at this point in their history. If one were to remove the talking cars, one would think they’re looking at real scenery. This opens a whole debate of how much realistic will computer animation go before it begins to replicate live-action too much.

Automobile aficionados, including Pixar head John Lasseter, will find the most to appreciate in Cars 3. Its message of an athlete dealing with the younger players pushing them to retirement will also find resonance with many familiar with the sports world. However, Brian Fee has still managed to make this a universal enough story to appeal to many. Lightning McQueen is not the same car he was many years ago and there is a rooting interest in his success. Yet the film touches on other themes one might not expect it to explore. Some will see this as another silly animated movie about talking cars. However, others will see the deeper ideas and conflicts being presented.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison