A RARE CARS SEQUEL THAT DOESN’T GO OFF COURSE!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
Lightning McQueen is back in Cars 3
Pixar Animation Studios has been known for creating some of the best animated films of all time through the eyes of both children and adults. However, they are also the studio responsible for one of the biggest movie cash grab franchises of all time, Cars which pretty much exists just to entertain little kids and boost some profits for both Pixar and Disney.
The first film released in 2006 was definitely a step backwards for the studio after the first all-human character Pixar film, The Incredibles was released two years prior. Cars wasn’t terrible or even bad but it wasn’t great either, mostly harmless kids flick with some colorful animation and a few likable characters.
The 2011 sequel, Cars 2 on the other hand marked Pixar’s first and so far only dud and while the film did well financially it was widely despised. A secret agent car movie with tow-truck, Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy-Blue Collar Comedy Tour, Delta Farce, Comedy Central Roast of Larry the Cable Guy) as the main character was insufferable and had a confusing environmental plot that left no impact.
So, after that travesty and two pointless Planes spin-off movies (Because Money!) Pixar gets back on the track with Cars 3, the third installment of the Cars series and their second film trilogy after Toy Story. Thankfully this film learned from what worked in Cars 2 and what didn’t and pushed Mater off to the side again and brought the focus back to racecar, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson-Zoolander, Wedding Crashers, Night at the Museum trilogy) becoming the best again, much more tolerable than last time.
After being blindsided by a new generation of racecars and a fatal accident on the track Lightning McQueen is pushed out of racing and possibly forced into retirement. To get back in the game McQueen gets the help of an eager race technician named Cruz (voiced by Cristela Alonzo-Mind of Mencia, Cristela, The Angry Birds Movie) with her own plan to win and was heavily inspired by the Fabulous Hudson Hornet himself, Doc Hudson.
With Cruz’s skills and the support of his friends from Radiator Springs, Lightning McQueen will train long and hard to outrun his new rival, Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer-The Social Network, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Free Fire) and go down in history as a Piston Cup Racing legend.
The film also features the voices of Bonnie Hunt (Rain Man, Jumanji, The Bonnie Hunt Show) as Lightning’s girlfriend, Sally, Chris Cooper (Adaptation, The Muppets, August: Osage County) as Smokey, Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2) as Sterling, Tony Shalhoub (Spy Kids, Monk, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) as Luigi, Pixar visual effects supervisor, Guido Quaroni as Guido, Kerry Washington (Bad Company, The Last King of Scotland, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer) as Natalie Certain, Lea DeLaria (The First Wives Club, One Life to Live, Orange is the New Black) as Miss Fritter, Lloyd Sherr (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star VS the Forces of Evil) as Fillmore, Paul Dooley (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Insomnia, Sunshine Cleaning) as Sarge, Cheech Marin (Cheech & Chong Up in Smoke, The Lion King, The Book of Life) as Ramone, Jenifer Lewis (Beaches, The Preacher’s Wife, The Princess and the Frog) as Flo, Formula One racer, Lewis Hamilton as Hamilton, sportscaster, Bob Costas as Bob Cutlass, Bob Peterson (Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, Up) as Chick Hicks, Katherine Helmond (Soap, Who’s the Boss, Everybody Loves Raymond) as Lizzie, John Ratzenberger (Cheers, Toy Story, Monsters Inc.) as Mack, Michael Wallis as Sheriff, Tom and Ray Magliozzi as Dusty and Rusty, Isiah Whitlock Jr. (The Wire, Gotham, Chi-Raq) as River Scott, former NASCAR driver, Junior Johnson as Junior “Midnight” Moon, and Margo Martindale (Days of Thunder, The Rocketeer, Secretariat) as Louise “Barnstormer” Nash.
Overall, Cars 3 almost makes up for the taint of Cars 2 and despite existing only for the sole purpose of making money, the filmmakers and studio decided to put some thought and effort into it to at least make it serviceable for parents. The plot isn’t nearly as ludicrous as the second film, has a few decent jokes, and at times has some touching moments put in.
However, at times the film feels like a rehash of the first movie, think about it Lightning McQueen starts off as a superstar (Literally starting with his opening monologue from the first film), then he becomes an underdog again, and must work his way back to the top. Sounds familiar doesn’t it, well at least it makes more sense than throwing in secret agent cars and forced environmental messages.
Something that I praised about the movie was the inclusion of flashbacks and unused audio recordings from the late Paul Newman as Doc Hudson that was originally intended for the first movie. Sure, Doc doesn’t actually appear in the film but it’s a touching tribute to the actor and character.
This is what I’d like to consider the true follow-up to Cars, Cars 2 never happened folks and if this was the second movie I’d probably be satisfied. Definitely not one of Pixar’s best and not quite as good as the first film but you live and learn from your mistakes and can get out of a ditch with a solid follow-up, something I doubt Michael Bay will listen to when Transformers: The Last Knight comes out next week.