My husband and kiddos got to see a screening of Cars 3 earlier this week, courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures. Here’s Kyle, back with another “Dad’s Perspective” movie review! We were not compensated or required to write a positive review; all opinions are his own.
Did we need Cars 3? No. We didn’t even need Cars 2, but we got it – and my kids have enjoyed it. Sequels like these are safe and they make tons of money, so that’s what we get.
That being said, it’s nice to see the continuing story of Lightning McQueen, Mater and all the gang from Radiator Springs; it’s like checking in on some old friends. And of course, we meet new characters like Jackson Storm, Cruz Ramirez, and others along the way.
This story picks up well into McQueen’s racing career (the character reprised once again by Owen Wilson). He’s won race after race, Piston Cup after Piston Cup. He is legendary in his sport. Then out of nowhere, a rookie comes in and begins dominating the racing scene (…sound familiar?). Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer) is what they call “next gen”, a new breed of racers getting to the top with technology and analytics.
Following the success of the “next gen” racers, everyone tries to copy this new approach – leaving “old timers” like McQueen in their rearview mirrors.
McQueen’s not ready to give up so quickly though. After some contemplation, he decides to go all in – staking his reputation and his legacy on one race. If he wins, he maintains control of his destiny. If he loses, he retires and sells out. McQueen adopts an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mentality and begins training with Cruz Ramirez (voiced by relative unknown Cristela Alonzo)… only to find out that he’s not cut out for treadmills, sports psychology, and simulators. Ultimately, he decides to go back to his roots for inspiration, taking Cruz with him on an adventure that helps both of them find their true calling.
For first-time director Brian Fee – who worked his way up through the Art Department at Disney-Pixar – I thought this was a very good effort. I can’t say that I was blown away by the visuals, but it’s saying something that the world these anthropomorphized cars occupy is completely accepted by the audience without question. That in itself may be a great accomplishment.
Disney and Pixar have been very good at storytelling in recent years, and Cars 3 is no exception. There are times where it seems some characters are being shoehorned into a scene because they need a few seconds of screen time. I’m not sure if the addition of a Latina car felt like a natural choice or if it was a calculated decision to appeal to a growing Hispanic demographic, but ultimately the story is solid.
Cars 3 touches on many issues in sports today, including the rise of an analytics and stats-driven games over a history of guts, sheer talent, and will-power. There’s the familiar story of a legendary player at the end of his career. Does he get to choose how he is remembered? Does he burn out or fade away?
We also get a bit of a study into what it is that makes someone great at what they do. How much does confidence bolster an athlete’s performance? Does discouragement keep some from achieving their dreams? These are all issues the movie addresses well. Also, there is a theme of feminism throughout the movie that is clear, but does not feel heavy-handed.
Perhaps the most interesting theme of the movie to me, however, is the soul-searching, existential path that McQueen travels in this movie. I’m amazed that Cars came out in 2006 – 11 years ago!
Imagine an 11 year old, seeing the first Cars movie at a prime age; he is completely immersed in this world of racing and excitement. The same boy is now 22, graduating college and trying to decide what’s next in his life. Or imagine a mother who was 30 in 2006, who took her 7 year old to see Cars. Now she’s 41, with a high school graduate getting ready to move out of her home.
Since we first met Lightning McQueen, Mater, Sally, Doc Hudson and all the rest, we’ve come into a new season of our lives. As it turns out, so have they. And like McQueen, we have to decide what we’re going to make of this season. We’re in for a ride!