Is Cars 3 good?
I doubt I’ll ever watch it again, but it’s alright.
Care to elaborate on that?
Cars is still the most shallow and least involving world Pixar has ever managed to dream up, but at least this time they decided to mainly focus on what works. Cars 3 is about races, winning races, losing races, the lives of the characters in said races and not really much else; and the result of that is easily probably the best of the Cars movies.
So you didn’t care for the first two?
Not really, no. Though I also don’t share the same level of overwhelming disdain for the franchise that I feel like a lot of the movie press does.
Yeah, what’s up with that?
I have a couple of theories. Mainly, it’s that these just aren’t as good as most of the other Pixar series, and they also feel the least ambitious. But I also think some of it is that it’s the only Pixar franchise that’s grounded in romanticizing a subculture (Nascar racing, specifically) that’s beloved by a lot of “Middle America.” Whereas they usually make movies about action figures, robots, superheroes, monsters – “pop-obsessions” that more tend to hit a nerve for the sort of folks who write very serious think pieces about animated movies. By the same token, it’s also nakedly obvious that Cars only exists beyond the original because it’s the best-selling Pixar toy brand, making it (somehow) more commercial-feeling than other productions of the Walt Disney Machine.
So what does this one do that’s so different?
Whereas the first two movies both get bogged down in their respective small-town redemption and spy-spoof storylines, this one feels like someone finally sat down and said “wait a minute… these are basically sports movies, right? So why don’t we just do that?” And that’s what Cars 3 is: A straightforward sports movie about auto-racing, set in a universe where the cars drive themselves. And in that respect, it basically works.
What’s the story?
Basically, we’re revisiting Pixar’s second favorite subject after Things-That-Don’t-Typically-Speak-Speaking-With-Surprising-Philosophical-Depth: Male obsolescence anxiety. We’re a few years into the future, and Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is now a longtime champion watching his fellow veteran racers gradually slow down and retire. His fears of being outclassed by the new generation of high-tech competitors who use computers and statistical analysis for a competitive edge (as represented by Armie Hammer’s arrogant Jackson Storm) ends up causing him to over-exert and seriously injure himself – potentially for good. Facing the prospect of winding up forced into retirement like his former mentor Doc Hudson (voiced again in flashbacks by the late Paul Newman via tricksy audio editing), he embarks on a last-ditch on-the-road training regimen, reluctantly paired with new-school trainer voiced by Cristela Alonzo, Cruz Ramirez.
Well… not exactly. There’s a subplot about how McQueen’s new corporate sponsor (Nathan Fillion) actually wants him to retire so he can become a George Foreman-style marketing brand, but it’s mostly there for structure. The main story does end up going in a somewhat unexpected direction – though getting into it verges on spoiler-territory.
Lay it on me. [Skip this part if you don’t, in fact, want it laid on you]
Okay: Lightning doesn’t initially get along with Cruz because she’s a new-school trainer who’s all about the kind of cutting-edge techniques Storm and the other new-gen racers use, while he wants to whip himself back into shape by “getting his tires dirty” with tried-and-true analog techniques. Amid their disagreements, he discovers that Cruz had grown up wanting to be a racer but was stymied by lack of support and self-confidence and resigned to being a trainer instead. Subsequently, he meets up with old friends of Doc Hudson’s and comes to understand that the aged champ found ultimately found more fulfillment as a mentor (to McQueen) than as a champion…
Oh, I see where this is going.
The kids won’t, though. But, yeah, it becomes clear that we’re actually seeing an “origin story” for Ramirez as a new potential face for the franchise well before it becomes a clear “twist” in Act 3. Still, it’s a mostly unexpected subversion of the expected Noble Elders vs. Snotty Millennials storyline, and in that respect, it’s a rare “aging athlete” story that doesn’t feel like it hates young people – though it very much seems to hate Moneyball-style stats-driven sports culture.
Does it work?
For the most part. Exactly how the cars “work” in terms of aging, sentience, etc. has never been very clear in this series, so what “getting old” actually means for Lightning and the other veterans feels somewhat difficult to invest in as stakes go. On that same theme, it’s weird to stop and realize that McQueen and Storm’s rivalry boils down to a “John Henry Vs The Steam Drill” man-versus-machine story… but where they’re both machines. It’s never boring, though, and there’s (mercifully) a lot less Larry The Cable Guy this time around.
So you recommend it?
I wouldn’t go that far. The two sorts of people who’re going to see this either really liked the first two or they have kids and don’t have a choice. I can’t speak for the first type, but the dragged-along-parents will probably find this at least substantially more tolerable than, say the Minions (or The Emoji Movie in a few months.)
Dont forget to “Like” us on Facebook
Need something to share, visit our sister site for the
‘News in the last 30 days”
in a clear concise package ….