By Jared Huizenga – Contributing Writer
I’ve never done so, but if I were to sit down and rank all of Pixar’s feature films, I feel pretty confident in saying that “Cars” and “Cars 2” would rank near the very bottom.
While I can appreciate the themes of friendship, acceptance and determination, it’s a series and characters that never resonated with me. Perhaps it’s also because that while most other Pixar work skews toward young and old audience, these have been very much kids’ fare. Also, Larry the Cable Guy doesn’t work for me on any level.
So, I went into “Cars 3” with very, very low expectations. Amazingly, it not only met them, but greatly exceeded them.
This time out Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is the grizzled veteran race car – still winning races, but starting to slow down as time passes. Time starts passing even faster when new, younger race cars with access to the greatest technology known to man – namely Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) – start stealing the show and sending cars of Lightning’s generation into retirement.
Determined to keep Lightning relevant, Sterling (Nathan Fillion) purchases Rust-eze and creates a training center to get Lightning up to speed and breed the next generation of racers. Helping Lightning along the way is head trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo).
With Lightning’s career quite literally on the line, the newly-formed team must work to teach an old dog new tricks.
Surprisingly, there’s a lot to like about “Cars 3.” Included are the aforementioned friendship, acceptance and determination, but they also sprinkle in a bunch of overcoming your fears, recognizing the good in others and seeing that often there’s more going on beyond the surface that we see.
It returned more to the form of the first film, which I’d say was OK, rather than the second, which I’d say was silly garbage. If there was a need to continue the series, that was the right choice to make.
Not surprisingly, given that it’s Pixar, the animation is also off the charts good.
They also did a nice job in paying respect to the late Paul Newman – the voice of Doc – by using flashbacks rather than recasting the role. It’s too bad they didn’t do the same thing for George Carlin – the original voice of Fillmore.
And best yet, while Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) is still around, he plays a much smaller role than in the previous installments.
That said, I still feel the series is Pixar’s worst (which is still better than a lot of other animation) – it’s still very much geared toward very young children, and focuses too much on silly “humor” – and I think their time would be better served creating new characters or new adventures for other existing Pixar characters for the big screen.
“Cars 3” might have given the series the pulse that “Cars 2” ripped away from it, but it feels like the logical place to wrap things up … at least in terms of theatrical releases.
★★★1/2 of ★★★★★
Jared Huizenga is a freelance movie critic. Follow his work at www.facebook.com/JaredMovies.