Out this Friday, June 16 is “Cars 3,” the latest in a Pixar franchise launched more than a decade ago. The movie once again stars Owen Wilson as Lighting McQueen and Larry the Cable Guy as Mater, but for the third installment creators added a host of new characters voiced by Kerry Washington, Cristela Alonzo, Nathan Fillion, Armie Hammer and more.
“Cars 3” starts in much the same form as its predecessors: Lightning McQueen racing and winning with lots of jokes and friends along the way. However, halfway through the season he stumbles when he begins losing to “Next Gen” racers, particularly Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), whose advanced training technology and features give them an advantage over classic racers like McQueen. After a crash, McQueen recuperates and sets off to train like the Next Gen, beginning a new routine with trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) at a state-of-the-art facility owned by Sterling (Nathan Fillion).
Going into this movie, I had significantly lower expectations than I usually do of a Pixar film. I never quite connected with the first two movies, and the early trailer (a hyperrealistic rendering of the crash scene from the first part of the movie) seemed a little intense for “Cars 3,” a fun summer flick about talking automobiles. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised.
The first act of the movie is pretty standard for the franchise, but the introduction of Cruz Ramirez sends the film in a new direction. A departure from McQueen’s usual crew, Ramirez is quick, funny and refreshing. Her dialogue is full of more laugh-out-loud jabs than the more typical slapstick yuks from other characters.
Cruz’s character is also a well-done attempt to fold more women into the meat of the story. She enters as more of a mentor than a sidekick, and her arc throughout the movie is as entertaining and compelling if not more so than Lightning McQueen. Without a doubt, her character is what makes this movie a worthwhile sequel rather than just another episode of a franchise.
The animation of this movie is, as usual, gorgeous, and it’s a credit to the filmmakers that they found ways to showcase it. The actual form and details of the characters in the movie is relatively limited (beyond the obvious and significant feat of crafting realistic facial expressions for cars). To make up for that, “Cars 3” is full of a lot of really beautiful and realistically drawn scenery that contrasts with the poppy nature of the characters. McQueen travels through deserts, mountains, beaches and cities, and each new setting is picture perfect.
The one notable flaw of the film is that it is a bit long for its content, and some scenes in the middle really drag. While details from throughout play a part in the movie’s conclusion, there is definitely some fat that could have been trimmed to make the movie a little snappier.
Overall, this movie rose above my expectations and is a fun movie to kick off the summer season. Whether you consider yourself a “Cars” fan or not, “Cars 3” is definitely worth a watch!