I was 6 years old when the original Cars movie came out. I first saw it when my mom gave me the DVD of it. Long story short, I watched the movie multiple times. It was one of the first movies I had ever seen in my life. I loved Cars as a kid and it made me like real cars, in the same way that watching Thomas the Tank Engine made me like real trains. While I recognize today that it’s not Pixar’s best work, it’ll always hold a special place in my heart as it heavily influenced my childhood.
Fast forward to 2011, when Cars 2 came out. I was really excited for this one. I went with my brother to see this one and I couldn’t be more disappointed. While the visuals and some jokes were good, the story was a mess and it was simply Pixar’s worst movie… by a longshot. So now it’s 2017 and we have Cars 3. I was hoping this one would makeup for the disaster that was Cars 2 and I’m happy to report that it did.
The plot setup is this- it’s been several years since the first Cars took place and now there are new racers competing. These racers are much more advanced and faster than the racers of Lightning McQueen’s (the main character) generation. This causes several of Lightning’s friends to go into retirement because they can’t beat this new crop of racers. But Lightning refuses to give up and continues to race, despite the fact that he’s now losing races to one of the new racers, Jackson Storm. One day, Lightning (in trying to beat Storm) pushes himself too far and ends up in a horrific crash that could potentially end his career. After recovering, he decides to go back into racing, but can he beat Storm?
I could go further, but I don’t want to spoil the plot. The best thing about Cars 3 is that it is a massive improvement over Cars 2. In fact, there’s no connection between Cars 3 and Cars 2, this one only flashes back to the first Cars. It’s as if Cars 2 didn’t exist. You could watch Cars, skip Cars 2, watch Cars 3, and you wouldn’t miss a thing. As usual, the animation is beautiful and it shows how much technology has advanced between 2006 (when the first one came out) and now. While the first movie took place in a mostly western environment, this one takes place in a mostly southern environment. The characters are also fantastic. McQueen goes from the immature young racer in the first film to where he’s now older and is getting beat by younger racers. It’s hard for him to accept that he’s no longer the youngest kid on the block and may no longer be able to compete. It goes to the theme of where a person who’s older and has a lot of experience in a certain field is threatened to be overtaken by someone who’s younger and is better with technology. Perhaps a few of you here can relate to that.
Going back to the characters, another standout is Cruz Ramirez, a young car who basically becomes Lightning’s trainer. I won’t go into more detail, but she’s great. Doc Hudson, Lightning’s mentor is also fine. I won’t say what role the character has, but the unique thing his that he’s voiced by Paul Newman, like in the first film. The thing is that Newman died in 2008, so Pixar decided to use archival recordings of his voice, instead of finding a different actor to fill the role. All of the other original characters (including Tow Mater) make an appearance, but their role in the movie is very minor.
As far as the story goes, it’s fine, and there are several exciting race scenes and more dramatic scenes. It’s not as complex as other Pixar movies, but it works. However, Cars 3 lacks the emotional gut punch of other Pixar movies, the 2nd act is rather disorganized, and the ending is overly convenient. It’s nowhere near Pixar’s best and I’d argue Cars 3 isn’t as good as the original Cars. But it’s worlds better than Cars 2 and overall I’d give this a 70%. Overall, Cars 3 isn’t great, but it’s definitely worth watching. If you haven’t seen any of the Cars films, I’d recommend seeing Cars 1 and then Cars 3. Both are filled with fun and have heart.