‘Cars 3’ Revs Up Emotional, Poignant Story
Pixar’s latest talking-vehicles installment returns to its roots with good clean fun, as well as dazzling animation
Pixar’s talking-vehicles franchise has returned to the winner’s circle with its latest installment. After alienating fans and critics in the much-maligned, spy-themed Cars 2 in 2011, Cars 3 shows that Lightning McQueen still has something left in the tank.
Featuring dazzling animation of cars racing and amazing shots of American highways, the G-rated, family-friendly film offers life lessons about never giving up, following your dreams and the importance of mentors.
The story begins with legendary Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves after he is blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, especially cocky Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer).
To get back in the proverbial race, Lightning needs the help of eager young racing coach Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), who always dreamed of being a racer. With his familiar number 95, Lightning must also draw inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet/Doc Hudson (the late Paul Newman, who was one of the best parts of Cars).
Additionally, Lightning finds support from his friends at Radiator Springs, including tow-truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), girlfriend Sally Carrera (Bonnie Hunt) and auto-body shop owner Ramone (Cheech Marin).
The film’s premise mirrors the first film, in that Lightning is now an old racer–like the King–and Jackson Storm is a young rookie about to overtake him, just as Lightning had in the first film.
Cars 3 has some slow parts that could bore small children, but not surprisingly it revs up again towards the climax.
With the tagline “it’s not over until lightning strikes,” Cars 3 focuses on the theme of Lightning wrestling with feeling obsolete and outdated.
“You will never be the racer you once were. Accept it,” Doc Hudson’s mentor, Smokey Yunick (Chris Cooper) tells Lightning.
Lightning later says: “I decide when I’m done.”
The first G-rated Pixar film since Monsters University (2013), Cars 3 currently has a 65% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Pixar’s 18th feature film, Cars 3 is not the best movie from the famed animation studio. However, by returning to its roots, the series rediscovered its sense of purpose and its heart.
What To Watch For: Rated G, Cars 3 is mild compared to most animated films, with car violence the most concerning aspect for parents. Lightning is involved in a huge, whirling crash that leaves him as a wrecked, smoking pile of sheet metal. Old newsreel footage shows Lightning’s mentor, Doc Hudson, tumbling repeatedly in a similar accident. During a demolition derby race, cars crash and bash into each other, with some sent flying into billboards and other areas of the track. In that race, a huge bus threatens to crush Lightning and Cruz into scrap metal. However, these intense moments are not scary, but more silly.