Did a Cars movie just make me misty-eyed?
While I don’t hold quite the same disdain for the Cars series as many, they’re still easily some of the weakest of Pixar’s films. Naturally it is easy to be cynical about a third entry in a franchise whose existence is clearly perpetuated more by merchandising than creative quality. It should come as some relief, and perhaps surprise, to you then that Cars 3 is good.
Not great, mind you, but still rather good.
It’s been eleven years since we were introduced to Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), the king of the racetrack, and he’s beginning to show his age. As a slew of younger, high performance vehicles comes onto the scene, Lightning is being left in the dust. Faced with a forced retirement, he searches for answers, hoping that this is not the end.
Now if you hate the Cars franchise, there’s probably no saving this one for you. Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) still pops up, vehicular puns are more plentiful than car seat Cheerios, and the age old question of what exactly are these sentient car things and why do they exist will only get more complicated for those people who overthink such things. If you’re willing to give it a chance, however, this is a Pixar movie, through and through.
Yes, it is still squarely aimed at the youngest of fans and doesn’t offer much in the way of complexity, but it is solidly built and runs like a champ from start to finish. Adults will find plenty to relate to and groan at as the story progresses, and kids will love the zany antics built around a plot that gives them easily identifiable highs and lows to react to. There are just about zero surprises here as the ending and every emotional beat leading up to it are laid out far in advance so that anyone who can read a map will see what’s coming. Somehow that doesn’t much lessen the impact, though, and I found myself tearing up just a bit as the sappy and predictable emotional moments came to fruition. Seriously, Pixar, even at your most blatant and predictable, you still got me.
The animation is undeniably meticulous – not quite photo realistic, but in line with the cartoonish world inhabited by sentient cars – which makes certain sequences all the more intense. From a legit horrifying crash (highlighted in the trailers) to a demolition derby, this film has just as many in your face moments as it does the stop and look at the pretty sand on the beach ones. For racing fans, there are plenty of cameos and easter eggs that I didn’t get, but someone else will.
Even if is not as cleverly crafted as in some other films, the emotional heart of Cars 3 is still there. It takes place in an increasingly imaginative world, fully realized and family friendly. A tale about the meaning of success, mentorship, and working through inevitable change, Cars 3 is lovingly crafted, despite a rather simple story. It takes the franchise to the height the first film tried and failed to reach. No, it doesn’t come close to something like Toy Story 3 or Inside Out, but at least this one can slip into the same garage without feeling out of place.
Mrs. Hamster did not screen this film
Brother Hamster did not screen this film
My rating: Three (and half?) out five hats
Cars 3 drifts into 4,256 theaters, including IMAX 3D, June 16