When my daughter Addison was a little girl, we watched Pixar’s Cars, released in 2006, together on DVD. I was impressed with how Pixar used personification to show how race cars have feelings. I never ended up seeing the 2011 sequel, Cars 2, but my husband Mike, who watched it with our daughter, said the original was better. With the release of Cars 3, Mike, Addison, and I headed to the theater together to see the next chapter of Lightning McQueen’s high-speed adventures.
At the start of Cars 3, Lightning McQueen, a world-renowned champion, is starting to show signs of aging. His will to win is still strong, but his engine just isn’t what it once was. When a brand new racer, Jackson Storm, joins the race circuit, McQueen knows he’s in trouble. Not only is Storm calibrated to be the fastest car ever, his taunts toward McQueen unnerve him, especially the references about his geriatric status.
After being dethroned, McQueen finds himself at a crossroads; does he continue with racing, or does he pull himself into a garage and retire? While McQueen still has a loyal following of die-hard fans, cynics in the racing industry seem to enjoy watching the former champion’s plummeting status as he goes from hero to zero.
With the help of his pit crew, which includes the lovable, toothless character Mater, Lightning McQueen embarks on an unorthodox training mission with the perky Cruz Ramirez. Cruz is intent on making McQueen number one again, but wonders if he still believes in himself. All the training in the world is no substitute for self-confidence, a lesson Cruz has known all along for she’s tucked away her own aspirations of becoming a champion. Will McQueen reclaim the glory that was once his, or forever lament “what could have been” like his new trainer?
Cars 3 is a multi-generational tale. While McQueen come to grips with the fact that he’s no longer the spring chicken of the race cars, he realizes how much he misses his mentor, Doc Hudson, who made McQueen great. Just because Doc Hudson has passed away, that doesn’t mean that others from his generation aren’t still willing to get McQueen back on track metaphorically and literally. This aspect of the movie sends a great message to kids that just because someone is past his or her prime, it doesn’t mean that he or she has nothing left to offer. McQueen, with Cruz at his side, becomes rejuvenated as the older generation reminds him that being a champion is more about strategy and grit than it is about showcasing the latest in automotive technology.
I liked the movie, but I can’t say that it even comes close to being my favorite Pixar film. Some of the sub-plots felt reminiscent of other underdog movies such as Rocky IV. As McQueen trained with Cruz and Doc Hudson’s gang, I kept thinking of how when Rocky was at his lowest, he went to the Soviet Union to train so he could beat the seemingly unconquerable Drago. Rocky was no physical match for Drago, but his memory of Apollo Creed and his pure tenacity proved to be more valuable than Drago’s perfected physique.
Mike and Addison liked the movie, and while they thought it was entertaining, they too thought this wasn’t Pixar’s best work. Addie’s favorite part of the movie was actually the short animated film LOU, that was shown before Cars 3 even began. (Kudos to Pixar for LOU, which was adorable, and sent a wonderful message to kids without saying a single word.)
When I pressed Addison to share her favorite part about Cars 3, she said, “I liked how he kept thinking about Doc Hudson.” As a parent, it makes me happy that she was more enticed by the older generation’s actions than by the youngest generation’s antics and bravado. Mike shared, “It was much more like the first one. The second one was weird because they tried to do a whole secret agent thing that just didn’t seem in keeping with the original. I found that there were elements of other movies that Pixar borrowed from, like the idea of drafting that came directly from the movie Days of Thunder.” (I’ll have to take Mike’s word for that since I never saw that film.) He continued, “It felt like they took ideas from lots of movies, and mashed them into one so they could squeeze out one more sequel.”
Of course, none of the kids in the audience, including my own, have seen the movies we were reminded of as we watched Cars 3; even though parts of the movie felt recycled to the adults, the plot was fresh for the youngest among us.
Movie times: click here
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Director: Brian Fee
Actors: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper
Running Time: 1 hour 49 minutes
Rating: Rated G