Lightning McQueen sets out to prove to a new generation of racers that he’s still the best race car in the world.
The ‘Cars’ series may not be amongst Pixar’s most celebrated movies, but it’s became their second franchise to hit three movies after ‘Toy Story’, in large part down to the extensive merchandising revenue it generates and it’s popularity with children (who whisper it, are the main target audience for Pixar’s work). This entry picks up with our protagonist Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) as he continues to embrace his status as the finest racing car in the world, until one day, several newer and faster vehicles start to enter the Piston Cup and McQueen is very quickly left behind. Led by the arrogant Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), the appearance of the new cars force McQueen to consider if he’s still up to competing and the film mostly follows him as he trains ahead of the new season in order to return to the top.
‘Cars 3’ actually explores some fairly mature topics as it follows McQueen’s battle to get back to the top. In many ways we’re watching the narrative of a typical sports movie (think boxing films in particular) where a seasoned pro is humbled by a new champion, and has to dig even deeper to achieve victory again. In Pixar terms, the ‘Cars’ series has been the least stimulating for an adult audience but this outing does actually tap into some more encompassing themes, such as the nature of growing old and realising your best days are behind you, and the way it plays out is done with a warmth and charm that I was surprised to discover based on the first two entries in the series. We follow McQueen as he works with his new trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), and this training ends up taking the team around a demolition derby and a couple of run down racecourses, which evoke the spirit of Doc Hudson (Paul Newman’s character in the first film) and it brings the proceedings full circle for the series to an extent.
The animation has always been stellar and it continues to be so here, but the fact it’s matched by a strong, poignant narrative is perhaps the biggest surprise, and whilst the way the film concludes doesn’t really make a lot of sense, it certainly works thematically and I quite enjoyed ‘Cars 3’.
Directed By: Brian Fee
Starring: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Armie Hammer, Larry the Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt, Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion, Paul Newman, Tony Shalhoub, Guido Quaroni, John Ratzenberger and Kerry Washington