Adventure Animation

'Cars 3' Film Review: Fast and family-friendly

June 12, 2017Ben MK

Think of the Cars franchise as Disney/Pixar's answer to the Fast & Furious series. Even though there haven't been nearly as many installments of the former as there have been of the latter, both revel in the need for speed, and both place familial themes on a pedestal. What then, you might wonder, would Dominic Toretto think of good 'ol number 95's latest lap around the sequel racetrack?

In Cars 3, we rejoin Piston Cup champion Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) as he continues to win race after race, much to the delight of his fans and sponsors. Little does he realize, however, that an unexpected turn lies ahead. A young upstart named Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) is poised to take the racing circuit by, well, storm; and with him, a league of next-generation cars is about to render Lightning and his fellow "old school" competitors obsolete. To make matters worse, the unthinkable happens, when Lightning suffers a potentially career-ending crash.

Fast forward four months, and Lightning finds himself fighting the urge to retire, as he recovers back in Radiator Springs, surrounded by old friends like Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) and Sally (Bonnie Hunt). Yet, the open road still beckons, and so when he's given the chance to train at a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility, Lightning jumps at the opportunity. Once there, he meets his new sponsor, billionaire entrepreneur Sterling (Nathan Fillion), and young trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), and sets out to prepare for the race of a lifetime: the Florida 500.

Directed by Brian Fee and written by Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich, what follows is a familiar-feeling story of redemption and rehabilitation that younger audience members in particular should find amusing, as Lightning and Cruz embark on a road trip in an attempt to restore his racing prowess, partaking in an impromptu demolition derby, delivering more than a few vehicular-related puns, and meeting a handful of new characters — including Smokey (Chris Cooper), the mentor of Lightning's own mentor, Doc Hudson — along the way.

Adults, on the other hand, are more likely to be bemused, as Cars 3 arguably lacks the same level of artistic nuance and emotional resonance that has made even fellow sequels like Toy Story 3 such instant classics. Suffice to say, the narrative for the most part falls noticeably short of Pixar's usual gold standard of storytelling, a feat that shouldn't be too surprising, considering that the franchise has generally been regarded as one of the studio's most underwhelming, especially when compared with such shining beacons as Finding Nemo, Up and Inside Out.

Of course, that's not to say that Cars 3 is utterly devoid of Pixar's trademark charm, but merely that the studio's tried-and-true formula is somehow starting to feel a bit too formulaic this time around. That said, you have to at least give the filmmakers credit for bringing Lightning's story full-circle. Rather than trying to squeeze even more mileage out of an already-diminishing fuel tank, Cars 3 doesn't completely rule out the possibility of a sequel, but it does bring the franchise to a nice, safe stop, should Pixar ultimately decide to leave these characters in the dust.

Cars 3 releases June 16th, 2017 from Walt Disney Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of G. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 49 Mins.

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