CARS 3 – Review

      Cars 3 is a comeback story, where Pixar gets “back on track” with the Cars story. It begins with Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) at the top of his racing game, only to be faced with a new generation of sleek, modernized racers led by a snarky, and cocky Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer). As his ranking falls, and other racers of his generation begin to retire, Lightning stubbornly refuses to retire on anything but his own terms–eventually leading to a devastating crash.

Cars 3 follows a lot of the conventions of a comeback story, but is nonetheless enjoyable. Lightning, still mourning his mentor Doc Hudson (through audio snippets from the late Paul Newman), tries to practice with new equipment under the guidance of his new sponsor, Sterling (Nathan Fillion), and Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), a peppy young trainer whose biggest struggle is self-esteem.

The real lesson, though, comes when he returns to the real roots of racing by visiting his own mentor’s crusty old trainer named Smokey (Chris Cooper), and Doc’s old racemates at a dusty old track for some grass roots, moonshine haulin, old school racing. Again, while the plot itself follows a lot of archetypes, there’s so much heart and personality to the characters. It also feels like the movie is mourning the death of Paul Newman just as much as its characters are, and I liked how much time it dedicated to their mentor-mentee/father-son relationship.

Disney•Pixar has a pretty great track record when it comes to exploring mature themes, so it’s not terribly surprising that Cars 3 approaches grief, gender equality, growing older, and self-doubt in a way that’s appealing to both adults, and the kiddos. The film introduces us to a number of new characters, with early ones (like Sally and Mater) appearing mostly in cameos, but this decision to not linger in the earlier films pays off.

The dynamic between Cruz and McQueen is a great one, which makes the occasionally drawn-out conventions of the comeback story feel more fresh. Is it Toy Story 3 or Finding Dory? No, but it’s an effective send-off to the Cars world and a good choice flick for kids of all ages to enjoy. B

Jon Bahr

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