Full disclosure right up front, I have grown to hate “Cars”, and it didn’t take much more to loathe “Cars 2”. Needless to say the bar for this series was pretty low going into “Cars 3”, yeah the trailer gave off a much darker tone, but I was pretty certain Pixar with all their power from the past could not really fix this franchise. And I was kinda right, it’s still one of the weaker Pixar properties, but does it do enough to make up for ‘Mater the Spy’?
We catch up with ol’ # 95 Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) prepping for another season of racing, as he racks up his wins. Then shortly thereafter the next generation of racers begin to creep up and eventually zoom past him. The new cars led by Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) with his sleek aerodynamic design, and high tech training methods all but leave McQueen in the dust. After a brutal accident, McQueen tries to get back in the race with some of that advanced training from Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) supplied by his new sponsor, Mr. Sterling (the always great Nathan Fillion) along with the support of the old gang from Radiator Springs. As he pushes himself to the limit, McQueen continues to wrestle with the idea that his racing days may indeed be up.
Now I must say this is the best in the “Cars” series, but as mentioned before, it wouldn’t take much to improve upon the first two films. There are some fun moments, and the training scenes mostly hit, and Pixar’s rendering of the great outdoors is mind-blowingly good. But what I kept coming back to was the overall theme of the film. The idea that you can give it your all, but when your time is up, then it’s up. Who is this message for? It certainly is not for my seven year-old who hasn’t done anything yet as far as major life commitments. And if it is for the kids who were seven back in 2006 and are now eighteen, they most definitely are not thinking of retirement, unless they created a popular app or something like that. And if it’s meant to inspire middle-aged me, then I didn’t get that either, I was just happy that there was 85 % less Mater in this one.
If this was meant to inspire a younger generation that should always strive to live up to their potential, didn’t they say all of that with the first “Cars”? Again this is by no means “Toy Story” or “Wall-E” caliber Pixar, but they did earn some favor back with an entertaining albeit middle of the road talking car movie. I just hope they move on to more original and more “Pixar” type of films and not rely on the ones that are meant to sell six more alternate versions of body paint for the Lightning McQueen toy.