Let’s get this out of the way first, shall we? If you are not a fan of Pixar’s Cars franchise in the first place, then Cars 3 is unlikely to make you one.
Therefore, anything I say in this review is unlikely to make you want to watch it. Unless you have kids who love Cars, of course, in which case, by all means bring them to watch it.
However, if you liked the first movie enough that you actually went to watch Cars 2, then Cars 3 will be right up your highway.
Cars 2 was the movie that put the brakes on Pixar’s run of quality films. Made on the misguided notion that we actually cared more about annoying hillbilly tow-truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) than the rest of the characters, it is widely derided as Pixar’s worst ever movie.
Cars 3, however, conveniently forgets it ever happened, and makes a U-turn back to the racing roots of the first.
Now a seven-time Piston Cup-winning racing legend, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is suddenly overshadowed by a newcomer named Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), who uses cutting-edge technology and statistical analysis to be faster and stronger than any other car out there. To make things worse, he is also involved in a horrific crash that threatens to curtail his racing career.
Confronted with the cold, hard truth that his time as a racer might be up, Lightning cuts a deal with his new sponsor Sterling (Nathan Fillion), who is more concerned with protecting his biggest brand asset from further harm – if he loses his next race in Florida, he will retire for good. But if he wins, he will get to decide when he retires.
With that, Lightning goes on the road to train for the race. Tagging along are his friends and regular pit crew Mack (John Ratzenberger), Luigi (Tony Shalhoub) and Guido (Tony Shalhoub), as well as young racing trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo).
Cars 3 is the sequel to Cars that we never knew we deserved or needed. No, really. Just forget that Cars 2 ever happened, or better yet, pretend it’s set in an alternate universe where the character of Mater actually matters. Mater hardly makes an appearance here, which is one of the movie’s plus points.
By putting the focus back on Lightning and the racing, we not only get to see the character’s arc come full circle, but we also see an expansion of Cars’ original story, making this seem like the second half of one really long movie.
It also serves as a long-overdue tribute to the late great Paul Newman, who voiced Lightning’s mentor Doc Hudson in the 2006 original movie. Newman died in 2008, and the loss of Doc Hudson plays a major factor in Cars 3’s plot.
Cars 3 is not without its flaws, of course. The voice cast doesn’t really stand out that much either, despite the addition of Alonzo, Fillion and Chris Cooper. Compared to Pixar’s other movies, the franchise is still one of its weakest and least memorable, though it’s still the studio’s most kid-friendly series.
As mentioned before, if you were never a fan of Cars, you will probably feel the same way about this one. But if you are a fan, then you will probably enjoy seeing Lightning McQueen get his lap of honour.
Director: Brian Fee
Voice cast: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper, Armie Hammer, Nathan Fillion, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Tony Shalhoub, Guido Quaroni and John Ratzenberger