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Three Views: Cars 3

June 16, 2017

Cars 3 Review By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is back on the racetrack in Cars 3, but now he is faced with confronting the end of his career as a world champion racer following a brutal crash, and thinking about how he will leave his mark in a world of younger cars.

This is the basis of Cars 3, a welcome third trip to Pixar’s world of anthropomorphic automobiles, that uses the narrative of a classic comeback tale to offer a briskly entertaining and also poignant story about mentorship and crafting your legacy.  The film works by going back to the roots of the first one, while all but ignoring the events of the fun but mostly negatively received Cars 2.

This threequel finds Lightning coming to the painful realization that his years on the track are catching up with him, with a smug new race car by the name of Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) starting to beat his speeds.  So when a fiery crash threatens his place in the racing world, it looks like it might be the end of the line for McQueen, until he is brought in for a new sponsorship deal with the slick Sterling (Nathan Fillion), and taken to a state of the art facility where he is teamed up with a perky trainer named Cruz Ramírez (Christela Alonzo).  McQueen is given the chance to race one more time to see if he’s still got it, but he is at odds with this new technologically advanced world, and the best way for him to get back on track involves going back to his roots.

Although the Cars films are often looked down upon in Pixar’s stellar lexicon, I have always enjoyed them.  I think the 2006 first film remains one of the studio’s most underrated works, an entertaining and sweet film about slowing down and enjoying the ride that is steeped in poignant nostalgia.  I even found the overly derided 2011 sequel Cars 2, which traded the quiet pace of its predecessor for an action-driven espionage tale, to be very entertaining and quite a bit of fun, despite it admittedly having some story and tonal challenges.  So considering that I am a fan of the series, I might be biased in my opinion of Cars 3, but if you harbour any affection for this world, then I think you will enjoy it as well.

The main story of Cars 3 is fairly straightforward, but this is actually one of the film’s strengths, keeping the focus squarely on its characters and expanding upon the themes set up in the first film.  Lightning McQueen is given an engaging character arc that satisfyingly brings his story full circle should this be the last film, and Cruz Ramírez is a delightful and empowering new addition to the cast, with a nicely handled arc of her own.  The presence of McQueen’s old mentor and former champion Doc Hudson (voiced by the late Paul Newman through leftover dialogue recorded for the first film) in bittersweet flashbacks adds another layer of emotion to Cars 3.

The endearingly simple tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) is also back to provide some comic relief, albeit in a much diminished role from his main player status in Cars 2, and there are also appearances from the rest of the Radiator Springs gang.  The film is carried by another likeable vocal performance by Owen Wilson, matched with hugely appealing work from Christela Alonzo.  First time director Brian Fee does a fine job taking over from series originator John Lasseter, and the film moves along smoothly and at a good pace, delivering many enjoyable scenes along the way.

Some of the film’s many highlights include a beach practise scene with Lightning and Cruz, a moonlit night driving sequence staged in an old forest, and a thrilling set piece at a muddy demolition derby where they go up against the “school bus of death” Miss Fritter (Lea DeLaria).  There is even a surprising twist in the last act that gives added resonance and emotional stakes to the outcome, and shifts the story into an exciting new direction.  As is to be expected from Pixar, the animation is also gorgeous, be it the clever little details packed into many frames, or the beautiful background vistas.

This is a solid redemption tale that follows the classic sports movie formula exceedingly well, with likeable characters, pleasing visuals and a fair bit of heart.  There is a real poignancy to the story about crafting a legacy and the bond between trainer and trainee, and I enjoyed spending time with both the old and new characters.  When all is said and done, Cars 3 succeeds at providing a fitting continuation of the first instalment, and a fine opportunity to spend more time in this fun animated world.

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Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and Cruz Ramirez (Christela Alonzo) in Cars 3

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Cars 3 Review By Erin Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

It’s been over 10 years since the first Cars came out, but the franchise has lived on through merchandise with the characters being a common sight in stores.  What the first film had was a character driven story about a cocky rookie racer, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), who has to find himself by slowing down and taking time to realize what is really important.  The second film took a break from Lightning McQueen’s story to put the spotlight more on side character Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) with a strange international espionage plot, and while Cars 2 didn’t garner much critical acclaim I personally enjoyed it as a fun action-spy film.  So the question going in for me was, is Cars 3 going to follow more the formula of the first film with its higher maturity or just follow in the footsteps of its direct predecessor?

Cars 3, probably for the better overall, is more in tune with the first Cars film.  We are back to focusing on McQueen, and his efforts on the race track.  This time around however, Lightning is no longer the rookie sensation he was in the first film, and is starting to find that the new rookies are faster, stronger, and more aerodynamic than he is.  After losing a slew of races – one in a huge crash that was featured in most of the trailers – Lightning has to retrain and figure out whether he’s going to be able to continue racing at all.

With the help of a new state-of-the-art training facility though, and a trainer named Cruz Ramirez (Christela Alonzo), Lightning is given one last chance by his sponsors to win the next race or else be forced into retirement.  The excitable Cruz at first frustrates McQueen, with him seeing her as an embodiment of the modern training that has taken over the racing world.  Even we as an audience wonder what depth she has when we first meet her, however we soon learn that Cruz has a secret of her own.

Cars 3 is very connected to the first film, with Lightning flashing back a lot to the training he received from Doc Hudson (voiced through extra dialogue recorded back in 2006 by the now late Paul Newman), and trying to figure out where he currently stands in his career and life.

Overall, Cars 3 is a classic story about an older racer who is trying to make a comeback in a field of racers a lot younger than him, and it successfully turns superstar racer Lightning McQueen into a believable underdog.  The story is paced well with enough twists to keep things interesting, and without saying too much, Cruz will likely become a new favourite character.  If you liked the first film, and whether you liked the second film or not, Cars 3 is worth seeing, and definitely worthy of the Summer primetime spot.

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Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) and Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) in Cars 3

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Cars 3 Review By Tony Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Unlike Cars 2, which was an international spy thriller featuring the tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), Cars 3 returns to the racing career of Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) which took off in Cars 1 and now after a number of successful years is being seriously challenged by the next generation of high-tech cars. Despite a new sponsor (Nathan Fillion) and trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), Lightning just can’t reach the 200 mph that the new cars can, but with the help of Doc Hudson’s trainer Smoky (Chris Cooper), he and Cruz learn to prevail by using their wits and skill and ultimately see their careers in a whole new light.

I really loved Cars 1 with its nostalgic tribute to the old Route 66 and NASCAR traditions along with some really exciting racing scenes. Unlike many critics, I even liked Cars 2, though it lacked the emotional impact of the original film. Much of that emotion returns in Cars 3, along with brief appearances of most of the original cast, and a really nice outcome. As a retired person myself, I could relate to the challenge faced by McQueen of passing one’s career on to the next generation.

Whereas the first two films were directed by John Lasseter himself, this one is directed and mainly written by Brian Fee, promoted from a distinguished career in Pixar’s Art Department. The racing scenes, including a hilarious demolition derby, are just as exciting as ever, and once again Randy Newman’s music underscores the action beautifully. Unless you are one of those people who have written off the Cars films as little more than promotion for kids’ merch, there is much to like in this latest offering.

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Consensus: Getting back to the roots of the first film, Cars 3 is a successful threequel from Pixar, with plenty of engaging set-pieces, likeable characters both old and new, as well as an emotionally resonant story about legacy. ★★★½ (out of 4)

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