Review: CARS 3

ROAD TO VICTORY — When faced with a new generation of racers who threaten to derail his career, Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) teams up with tech-savvy, unconventional trainer Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo) to find his way back to the top. Directed by Brian Fee, produced by Kevin Reher and co-produced by Andrea Warren, Disney•Pixar’s “Cars 3” opens in U.S. theaters on June 16, 2017. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

As far as Disney/Pixar films go, the Cars has always been the studio’s lower tier franchise.  Even though the movies have been fun and have much heart, they simply cannot match the imaginative brilliance and comedic genius of other franchises such as Toy Story or  Monsters, Inc.  Still, the Cars movies do have their fans, and I include myself among them.  The latest installment has much enjoyment to offer fans and audiences, but doesn’t really take the franchise into bold new territory.  The mostly likable, but slightly disappointing Cars 3 repeats some of the same themes of the first film, and lacks the imagination that went into the second installment.

Owen Wilson returns as Lightning McQueen, the legendary race car who has won the hearts of both friends and fans.  At this point in his successful career, McQueen is beginning to show his age.  Even though he can beat other race cars of the same age, he cannot do the same with the new racers entering the circuit.  A more modern race car, Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), soon becomes the car to beat and Lightning gets put to shame in their first race.  While others from his generation opt for retirement, Lightning decides to persevere.  In the next race, this decision proves to be a mistake when McQueen ends up hurt in a wreck.  His body gets repaired, but in order to get back in racing shape, he must train harder to compete with Storm and his new generation of racers.  With a new business car named Sterling (Nathan Fillion) backing him and a new trainer named Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) on his team, Lightning McQueen hopes to prove to the next gen cars that his racing days aren’t over.

Written and directed by Brian Fee, who co-wrote with Ben Queen, Eyal Podeli, Jonathan E. Stewart, Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson, and Mike Rich, Cars 3 pretty comes across like the Rocky III of the Cars franchise.  Both have similar themes and scenarios, but this movie obviously has a more kid-friendly approach.  I realize that this story/plot is a bit cliche and not all that original, but it still works as a logical place to take the characters of the franchise.  It gives this fantasy world a dose of reality that people face when it comes to the challenges of aging and how it often hurts the human pride.  The movie has its poignant and exciting moments, and the humor works out fine with no real outstanding gags.

The cast is absolutely perfect with some of the expected regulars reprising their roles.  In addition to Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy (Mater), Bonnie Hunt (Sally Carrera), Tony Shalhoub (Luigi), Guido Quaroni (Guido), Cheech Marin (Ramone), Jenifer Lewis (Flo), and John Ratzenberger (Mack) among others return to portray the lovable characters of Radiator Springs.  Armie Hammer (Storm), Kerry Washington (Natalie Certain), Lea DeLaria (Miss Fritter), Chris Cooper (Smokey), and more make wonderful additions to the Cars franchise.

And even though this installment doesn’t quite achieve the magic of the last one, it still makes for an entertaining and enjoyable installment in a franchise that is known for being mostly that–entertaining and enjoyable.  Fans of the franchise may be a little disappointed, but I still encourage them to give this chapter a chance.  This movie series still has a few sparks in its plugs and this latest addition is good enough for one more go-a-round.

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