Starring: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper
Director: Brian Fee
Running Time: 102 mins
Cars 3 is an American film and the third in the Cars franchise. Now racing an up-and-coming generation of technologically-advanced racers, Lightning McQueen sets out one last time to prove that he is still the best out on track.
Of all of Pixar’s most beloved and acclaimed franchises, Cars is undoubtedly the least adored. Although the first film is a heartfelt and entertaining family movie, it doesn’t stand up to Pixar’s greatest, while Cars 2 is by far the worst film Pixar have made to date, being nothing more than a stupid kids’ movie designed to sell toys.
So, it’s hopefully clear why I went into Cars 3 with a little bit of hesitation, but I’m glad to report that this third film is a suprisingly entertaining, heartfelt and most importantly down-to-earth family film. Of course, it doesn’t match up to the best Pixar has to offer, but as far as a animated movie for kids goes, Cars 3 keeps you engaged with a pleasant and uplifting story complete with entertaining action, fun voice performances and absolutely gorgeous animation.
All in all, I was really surprised just how much I enjoyed Cars 3, but I think the most important part by far is the fact that it takes a step back down to earth when compared with the ridiculous Cars 2. This time round, there are no international espionage thriller clichés, no flying cars, and no random globetrotting, just a simple, character-driven and nostalgic return back to the roots of the franchise that makes for a far more pleasant watch throughout.
The story centres around Lightning McQueen as he is increasingly overcome by a new generation of hi-tech rookies in his racing series, pushing him to the brink of retirement as he struggles to stay the best on track. That side of the story alone is far more interesting than anything Cars 2 had to offer, and keeps the film consistent with a strong central theme throughout, making for a more engaging watch.
Along the way, he meets Cruz, a young trainer with whom he strikes up a strong bond. Throughout, the two showcase all manner of clashes due to the generation gap, but that central relationship is actually what keeps the movie’s heart really going, as it proves a very genuine and often heartwarming relationship that harkens back to the best moments of the series’ first film.
In fact, you’ll see a lot of similarities between Cars 3 and the original Cars. It’s like the way that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is similar to A New Hope, both taking clear cues and copying the same story while also recognising and paying homage to the original. For me, the similarities weren’t too much of a problem, simply because you get to see another round of the purer Pixar from the mid-2000s than the Pixar that made Cars 2, something that’s never a downside.
So, it’s fair to say that Cars 3 is a return to form for the Cars franchise, even if it’s not quite as thrillingly original as some of Pixar’s latest hits like Inside Out and Coco. However, there’s more to the film than just the story, and one of the biggest other positives comes in the form of the truly incredible animation.
Of course, I don’t need to tell you that any film made by Pixar looks absolutely gorgeous, but for a Cars film (one of the most cartoonish in the Pixar catalogue) to look so good throughout is really thrilling. The cars themselves still retain their cartoonish look, but with the added bonus of the animation making the metal of their bodywork all the more vibrant, meaning that some of the long-distance shots where you can’t see their mouth and eyes making them appear like real cars.
What’s more is that Pixar have taken yet another step forward with their animation of real-world environments. Much like the underwhelming but visually stunning The Good Dinosaur, the textures of settings that we experience in the real world are pretty much indistinguishable from actual footage. From the stunningly realistic beach sequences to the incredible detail of watching cars racing round dirt tracks, there’s so much jaw-droppingly impressive and realistic animation throughout, reinforcing just how talented the people at Pixar are, which I absolutely loved to see.
Finally, let’s have a look at the performances here. Three films in, you’d expect the majority of the characters to feel a little tired, and although that does seem the case with cars like Mater, who’s very absent in this film in comparison to the past two, Owen Wilson does yet another great job at making a very likable Lightning McQueen, while Cristela Alonzo is just as wonderful as newcomer Cruz.
The film’s plot is far more character-driven that Cars 2, and that’s able to shine through thanks to these both enjoyable and likable performances, keeping you engrossed in the deeper emotions and drama of talking cars, no mean feat when you think about it.
Overall, I was really surprised by Cars 3. Of course, it’s nowhere near as powerful or impressive as the greatest Pixar films, but it represents a return to form and simplicity, ditching soulless big-budget thrills for more down-to-earth and emotional stories that, even though they focus on talking cars, are pretty engrossing to watch. Furthered by excellent animation and entertaining performances throughout, Cars 3 should be a fun watch for all, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.6.