While the ending is punchy, the forgettable setup for this racer story is slow and predictable.
Lightning McQueen finds himself outclassed by new and faster racers and threatened with retirement, he vows to be the one who decides when he’s done racing.
The Cars franchise is probably the most brittle of the Pixar series and most certainly the most disliked by fans older than the age of ten. The first film was a simple but effective stay-true-to-yourself story, but Cars 2 took the comparatively humble film and turned the dial up to obnoxious and unfunny, easily being Pixar’s worst production.
So when Cars 3 rolled around and displayed a gritty, dour and mature trailer that spits in the faces of those who outed Cars 2 for the childish merchandise machine that it was, I wondered if it was too little too late. Certainly, McQueen’s inner battle for relevance could be a metaphor for this film.
Cars 3 is pretty basic for a film buff, and not basic in the charming way the first film was. This is Rocky Balboa but with cars, without any particular commitment to the bit that Balboa dedicated itself to.
Does any one, any one watching this film believe anything Lightning McQueen is being sold over the first tedious thirty minutes? Anyone over ten?
So this children’s film starts out with McQueen going through the transition between racing sponsorships. Exciting eh, kids? His competitors are beating him with new hi-tech training programmes (Rocky 4, cough) and he is brought in to train in the same way.
Oh sure. I believe this. The character who’s learned everything from grass roots and countryside racing is going to willingly move on to the slick, expensive technological corporation. The film not only wants us to believe this, it dedicates so much time to it. Can we just hurry up and get McQueen training on a farm, pulling tractors and whatnot.
Asides from the enforced parallels to Rocky movies (there’s even a friend of McQueen’s early on who is “defeated” by the villain called Cal Weathers, gettit??) Cars 3‘s comedy is flat. While it is a improvement on Cars 2‘s standard, it just isn’t that funny. Sure, the first film wasn’t spectacular with laughs, but when this film attempts to be “thoughtful” and “contemplative” like the 2006 film it just feels like filler; how many times can McQueen look in awe at something off screen?
The film relies a lot on McQueen’s parallels with his late mentor Doc Hudson (voiced by the late great Paul Newman) and Hudson’s own mentors, which feels a little uncomfortable what with Newman’s passing and more than a little retread from the first movie.
Can you tell that the audience of children I saw this with were restless? Boy. While kudos to Pixar for making mature movies (Inside Out, Up) Cars is not the franchise for this sort of contemplation.
Once you go Cars 2, you can’t go back.
It can be commended for its maturity. McQueen is a more believable character here and this is the sequel Cars probably deserved, but… it is Cars. Cars. There’s a degree of discombobulation with such earnest words coming from… cars. But the new characters are decent, McQueen’s trainer/journey buddy Cruz is miles better than Mater, with Cristela Alonzo giving a lot of energy to the role.
Fighting for relevance ten years on, I don’t feel anything for the Cars films that hasn’t been done better in more honed and perfected sport movies. Children might enjoy it but be warned the middle of this film is slow going and bound to make those very young very restless.
Additional Marshmallows: And poor Sally and the other Radiator Springs characters, they just don’t get a look in anymore!