CARS 3 (USA/G/102mins)
Directed by Brian Fee. Starring Owen Wilson, Kerry Washington, Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion
THE PLOT: Still racing in the Piston Cup, but far from being the rookie he once was, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) finds himself struggling to keep up with the newer, faster – and more arrogant – cars entering the sport. To keep his edge, McQueen decides to train with the new technology the young cars are using, but when he meets trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) he becomes frustrated with her training techniques and decides to do things his own way.
THE VERDICT: The third film in the ‘Cars’ franchise sees Lightning and the gang return in a story more similar to the first ‘Cars’ movie, and way less silly and Mater-heavy than ‘Cars 2’. Brian Fee takes over directing duties from John Lasseter – who is working on Toy Story 4 – and although the film looks great and is beautifully animated, it still suffers from the issues that plagues the last two films in the franchise.
Most of the voice cast return for ‘Cars 3’, with Owen Wilson leading the way as Lightning McQueen, albeit a more sombre and less annoying version of the character. Larry the Cable Guy, Tony Shalhoub and John Ratzenberger are joined by newcomers to the franchise Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion, Armie Hammer and Kerry Washington.
The story, written for the screen by Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich feels very similar to ‘Cars’ in a lot of ways. Gone is the ridiculousness of Mater being a spy, and the film is stripped back to basics as Lightning tries to figure out how to stay competitive. There is a definite feel of familiarity about the film, as themes from the first film are brought to bear in this third instalment, and although the screenplay tries its best to make Lightning a more relatable character, he still comes off as arrogant, albeit someone perhaps those aware of encroaching middle age in the audience may relate to.
As director, Brian Fee manages to make the film entertaining for the most part, but never manages to shake the familiar feeling about ‘Cars 3’. As well as this, there are times when the films pacing sincerely struggles, and not even the zooming race sequences can give the film the energy it so desperately needs. That said, the film is beautifully animated, and the voice cast do well in their roles, but there is little new or different about ‘Cars 3’, and not a lot to hold the attention of the little ones in the audience.
In all, ‘Cars 3’ looks great and the voice cast do well with their roles, but anyone expecting something different from the franchise will be sorely disappointed. As well as this, the pacing struggles from time to time, and none of the characters feel fleshed out enough to keep the audience engaged. Also, the questions we all have about just what happened in the ‘Cars’ universe are not addressed, which just leads to further questions.
RATING: 2/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    The Pixar Braintrust certainly like cars. However, they’re not as easy to warm to as a toy, an old man, a clownfish or a lonely little robot. That makes the Cars series come out in the lower rankings of Pixar’s properties. After the drearily disappointing Cars 2, a rare dud from the great animation house, the prospect of another visit from this (arguably) unloved series was as welcome as a blown gasket. It’s therefore a mild surprise to find out that Cars 3 is actually OK and a moderate improvement on its predecessor.

    Racing ace Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is happy to chug along and not change with the times. But the times are a changin’, as next generation racing car Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) comes on the scene. Slicker, sleeker and faster, Lightning finds himself under increased pressure on the track. This causes him to have a bad crash. Lightning takes time to recover back in Radiator Springs. This is when he’s introduced to the latest advances in racing technology by trainer Cruz (Cristela Alonzo). Lightning’s not as fast as Jackson, but there might just be a way to beat him and stay relevant in racing circles…

    There’s a sense that co-writer and debut director Brian Fee has decided to go back to basics and make Lightning relevant again. To get back to where he was, he has to go back to where he came from. Hence, flashbacks to Lightning’s mentor Doc Hudson and a more grounded approach to the character. Lightning has to be taken down a peg or two so that he can keep up with the latest racers. This works well when Lightning takes part in a rowdy demolition derby – under cover of course. It doesn’t work so well when he’s racing against Jackson, a thinly-sketched character who remains very much in the shadows.

    It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where the plot is ultimately headed, but there’s a certain charm in watching it play out. The wild card here is not Jackson, but Cruz. She has a lovely character arc, from a car that is afraid of racing on beaches in case she runs over crabs to finding her true potential, which she can’t find on a simulation grid. There’s a certain resemblance to Dory here. Cars 3 is fine as passable animation fare for the family, but it’s not classic Pixar and does little to distinguish itself. It doesn’t have the inventive originality which we’ve come to expect from Pixar. Save that for Coco in January, which looks like a real treat. ***

  • Martin

    Cars 3 tries to put a bit more in the tank this time around but I’m afraid this banger has run out of gas. The animation is lovely to look at but that won’t how your attention for any length of time. on the plus side it does fell like this is the last of the cars movies, I really hope so anyway. I think Pixar need to discover their magic again. This and monsters university are two awful movies compared to the likes of the earlier toy story movies. I had low expectations going to this and I wasn’t disappointed.