Cars 3 (2017)
Cars 3 (2017)

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, and Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 49 min.

Release Date: June 16th, 2017 MPAA Rating: G

Director: Brian Fee Actors: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion, Larry the Cable Guy, Armie Hammer, Tony Shalhoub, Bonnie Hunt, Kerry Washington, John Ratzenberger

 


 

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everal years and numerous Piston Cup wins later, Rusteze-sponsored racecar Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) continues to dazzle his fans, ever since his meteoric rise in the sport. But as each race concludes, McQueen notices that the track is being dominated more and more by a new generation of sleeker, faster, and more technologically-advanced builds. Established racers like Dinoco’s Cal Weathers (Kyle Petty) and Octane Gain’s Bobby Swift (Angel Oquendo) are rapidly pushed aside in favor of youngsters like the arrogant Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer).

When Rusteze is bought out by greedy tycoon Sterling (Nathon Fillion), Lightning is backed into an ultimatum: win the upcoming Florida 500 or be forced into early retirement. Determined not to succumb to the same fate as his mentor Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), McQueen begins an unorthodox exercise regimen under renowned trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo). But despite having the most advanced facilities and machinery at his disposal, along with the support of his friends back home in Radiator Springs – including Sally (Bonnie Hunt), Luigi (Tony Shalhoub), and Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) – Lightning fails to achieve the speeds necessary to prevail. With time quickly running out before the climactic event, “Number 95” must seek help in the most unexpected of places.

“Focus. Speed. I am speed.” Once again, this trilogy capper opens with a pep talk, a rock song, gathered friends, a big race looming, insults traded between competitors, and a montage of racetrack imagery. At the Dinoco Light 350 race, the arc of Lightning McQueen’s legacy has come full circle: he’s now the veteran, while someone else is the rookie. This storyline seems to skip over the events of the previous movie, pretending as if it never took place. Instead, the attention returns to the racetrack and the more grounded realm of simple dirt and asphalt-bound competition. In “Cars 3,” there are no secret agents unleashing guided missiles across exploding runways.

But despite revisiting the more sensible world that inhabited the original “Cars,” this third entry embraces all of the same notions that made that first film such a bland affair. The franchise has become lumberingly nostalgic about itself. Never mind that the inclusion of hi-tech racers with their superior manufacturing begs existential questions about how car-people are created; or that vital signs are routinely checked; or that aging is a problem, even though almost every part of a car can be rebuilt or replaced (where exactly is the soul of the vehicle?) – the recycling of pieces from “Rocky” and its ilk never inspire or motivate the way that Ramirez’ sad reminiscences about her failed dreams give McQueen the fuel to rejuvenate his perspective. Here, emotions and conflict are woefully dull. Nevertheless, “Cars 3” again attempts to conceal the conspicuously incongruous ways in which vehicles are able to operate devices and tools made for human use (an anthropomorphized school bus is notably odd, since there are no human children to ride it, as well as carefully cut and framed newspaper clippings and thoughts on how windshield damage might affect eyesight), although after two previous feature films, the weirdness of this universe is growing easier to ignore.

Harder to dismiss, however, is the return to overly familiar routines – which should be acceptable nods to memorable interactions but are instead monotonous repetitions. Mater doesn’t get any new material, nor do all the Radiator Springs denizens, who make thankfully brief appearances. A marginally exciting demolition derby and a commonplace road trip strive for varying misadventures, but they’re unable to disguise the fact that montages seem to segue into other montages, and that a several-hundred-lap race is still a terrible way to generate suspense. Jokes at the expense of an aging McQueen provide a few feeble laughs, but a diverse voice-acting cast imparts unrecognizable voices (Nathan Fillion as Sterling is one of the more peculiar choices, since he’s given no opportunity to contribute to the comic relief), and several new supporting roles are unable to yield any powerful or significant moments. In the end, “Cars 3” is one of those rare Pixar films that feels as if made solely for young audiences, with scant material for maturer crowds (even of the suitably subtle kind). Or perhaps it’s just clearer than ever before that this series exists for merchandising rather than entertainment.

– The Massie Twins

  • 5/10