Cars 3 (2017) Review: Just What I Needed
The notorious Cars franchise races back into cinemas this time. After the spy-themed fever dream that was ‘Cars 2’ the series has taken a cue from other trilogies before it and returned to its underdog story roots. The focus switches back to Lightning McQueen this time around.
The movie opens with Lightning on top of his game. Winning races, but without the ego that made him so unlikable in the first film. Along comes Jackson Storm, a new breed of racecar. The faster, stronger new hotness, to Lightning’s old and busted make and model. After a car accident leaves Lightning worse for wear, he has to rediscover his inner racer or leave the racing to the new kids on the track.
The Cars films have always been the black sheep of the Pixar family. The decency of the first film was undercut by the second film’s inadequacy. This film, however, builds upon the best elements of the series, providing perhaps the most heartfelt of the films. It entirely disregards the events of the second film, and can be seen as a direct sequel to the first, much like the way 2016’s ‘Star Trek: Beyond’ was better suited as a direct sequel to 2009’s ‘Star Trek’. Most of that is due to Lightning McQueen’s introspective journey, as he comes to terms with his legacy and the life of a racer well past his prime.
If any of this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s par for the course with any long-running sports film franchise. The Rocky films are a good example. ‘Cars 3’ hits all the hallmarks of a sports film starring a long-established performer. It explores the mentor-mentee relationship, the challenges of an athlete growing old, and of course the passing of the torch. For advent film fans, much of this will seem like old hat, but for the target audience, it tells its story with a pathos and resonance that far exceeded my expectations. It hasn’t been released that, but I’m betting it’ll be better for them than ‘Despicable Me 3: Revenge of the Minion’
After the noisy rapid expansion that was the globetrotting ‘Cars 2’, its a comfort to know that ‘Cars 3’ is severely limited in scope. You get glimpses of the larger ensemble cast, but the majority of the story focuses on the characters of Lightning McQueen and newcomer Cruz Ramirez, played by Cristela Alonzo. Limiting the story gives the movie an opportunity to delve into the characters it has to work with, and gives them a treatment that keeps you interested.
The character of Cruz is especially interesting. I feel as though I’m harping on this, but her character brings a level of sophistication you do not expect from a ‘Cars’ film, as she essentially tells her story of a being limited in a world run by men. The same series that gave a feature film to Larry the Cable Guy playing a tow truck.
The downside is, often times ‘Cars 3’ feels repetitive. The story takes place over about a weeks time, and is chiefly concerned with the training of Lightning McQueen. To further the Rocky comparison, ‘Cars 3’ has a variable cavalcade of montages. There’s nothing inherently wrong with montages, but since the movie takes place over such a short period of time, when the film tries to convey the passage of time so often, it feels oddly paced to see the least.
There are of course the humorous moments of the movie. My favourite being any pun to be made in a world of living vehicles. ‘Cars 3’ is not a non-stop laugh machine. Many of the jokes won’t get raucous laughs from the older audience members, though the kids will be entertained. The characters though are charming and give the movie an endearing quality, with an ending that deviates from expectation. Parents won’t suffer through this one like most other kids films and would do well to see this film at half price.