Grade: B

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Author: Billy Madden

Even though the Cars franchise is only 3 movies in, many will be surprised when they realize it has happened for 11 years. I understand that Disney wants to get as much mileage out of the series as possible, but realistically Cars 3 is starting to show signs of a “midlife crisis.”

After many years on the racing circuit, hero Lightning McQueen faces a difficult decision to move on in his career. He is exposed and beaten by the “next generation” of cars led by newcomer Jackson Storm. McQueen has the self-deprecating realization that his “old technology” parts are not on the same level as these new model cars. This forces him to analyze his career and contemplates hanging up his tires for good.

If this sounds familiar to some, the first twenty-five minutes of the movie is an automobile version of Rocky 4. He even has a “never-say-die” attitude and receives help from a “trainer-car” named Cruz Ramirez. Cruz quickly realizes that the new-fangled simulators just do not work with McQueen, and they must resort to using the “old school” training methods for the pivotal race with Storm.

Much like how Rocky used the simpler training methods to prepare for Ivan Drago (whose training was very technology-laced), McQueen heads back to the simple dirt track his late mentor, Doc Hudson, used. As his faith in himself grows, further motivation to win against Storm comes from his sponsor Rust-Eze getting bought out.

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This story attempts to answer the age-old question of “Can the old compete with the new?” Cars 3 does drive home a decent flick, albeit not too original. It was a blessing that Pixar departed from the nonsensical espionage adventure of Cars 2. Still not sure what they were thinking there.

Narrative aside, the animation was done exceptionally well. With the extra advancements under the hoods of the computers used to create the film, you are treated to visual improvements. The colors seemed brighter, and Cars 3 uses the backdrops of forests to rolling hills in a montage (again very Rocky-esque) while traveling across the USA to the big race. It all looked beautiful.

The voice acting was naturally amazing. The whole cast was back for this installment, but due to the nature of the story focussing on McQueen and Cruz, other characters are not seen as much. My biggest disappointment was that my favorite character Mater had to take a back seat. 

A large element that was missing from this theatre experience was laughter. Cars 3 is not nearly as funny as the original because the story takes on a more serious tone. I wanted to laugh more at jokes that would have gone over kids’ heads, but the script was seriously lacking in this department. Although there was comedic relief with the demolition derby scene and the initial banter with McQueen and Cruz, it was pretty dry throughout. 

Approaching the checkered flag, Cars 3 is a decent picture that does ramp up a good message to kids (especially for girls, but I can’t say why without spoiling the movie). It was good to cheer on McQueen again and see the fun gang of Radiator Springs on screen for the third time. There will likely be another Cars movie, and I would go see it hoping it can somehow get back into the same lane as their first installment. Cars 3 is better than Cars 2 but not as good as the original. If you’re a franchise fan, you don’t want to miss this one. Ka-chow!!!! 

STARRING: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt, Cheech Marin, Kerry Washington, Nathan Fillion, Lea DeLaria, Armie Hammer, Cristela Alonzo, Jeff Gordon, Richard Petty, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Daniel Suárez, Bubba Wallace
GENRE: Animation, Family

Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician, Cruz Ramirez, with her plan to win, plus inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected turns. Proving that #95 isn’t through yet will test the heart of a champion on Piston Cup Racing’s biggest stage!

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