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Cars 3: Driven to Win

Platform(s): Movie, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, WiiU, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: June 16, 2017


Movie Review - 'Cars 3'

by Adam Pavlacka on June 16, 2017 @ 5:00 p.m. PDT

Lightning McQueen sets out to prove to a new generation of racers that he's still the best race car in the world.

It's been six years since "Cars 2," and life has gone on in Radiator Springs. Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is still racing, and Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) is still cheering him on. McQueen would likely be happy if the status quo continued forever, but time waits for no man (or car), and changes eventually come down the line (or track). In this case, those changes are in the form of newer models of race cars that are faster, more aerodynamic, and win more races than McQueen and his friends.

The question of how to deal with feeling old and out of date is an interesting premise for a children's movie, but "Cars 3" doesn't feel like a "kids' movie." Sure, it has the cute characters and the bright colors, but beneath the surface is a story that targets a slightly older audience that grew up with the original "Cars" film and might now be having kids of their own.

Like many humans who start to feel a loss of control in their lives, McQueen initially responds by trying to exert even more control over events, which ultimately leads to things spiraling even further out of control. It's the animated version of a mid-life crisis, as the red race car desperately tries to stay relevant.

Although McQueen may struggle with relevance throughout "Cars 3," the film itself never does. Pixar smartly touches on a number of issues, including the challenges of learning new technology, overarching consumerism, and the glass ceiling still faced by women in the working world. The movie never dwells too long on any one item. It simply puts the issues front-and-center, smartly makes a point, and then moves on to the next scene. I found myself thinking more about the film in the days after seeing it than in the hours immediately after the screening.

Speaking of consumerism, Nathan Fillion does a great job as Sterling, a rich business car who is more interested in using McQueen to sell product than he is in actually letting McQueen race. What makes Sterling interesting is the fact that he isn't evil, just motivated by profit more than anything else. Fillion voices him in a way that straddles the line of ambiguity, so you're never quite sure if he truly wants McQueen to succeed or not.

Out of all the characters, though, it is Cristela Alonzo as Cruz Ramirez who really makes "Cars 3" work. Ramirez is McQueen's trainer, who is tasked with the impossible job of getting his head back in the game. Ramirez needs to get McQueen into shape while also fighting demons of her own. She is a multifaceted character who will no doubt have her own fan club in the following months.

Visually, "Cars 3" is a treat, serving to impress visually as well as to show off Pixar's animation tech. It's worth springing for the 3-D on this one, as the effect is well used, and it doesn't suffer from a darkening of the image.

Also worth mentioning is the new Pixar short "Lou," which screens before the film. "Lou" isn't a crazy abstract short, nor is it a fantasy film. The plot is a simple, yet powerful message about bullying, which should resonate with children of all ages. Rather than try to tug at your heartstrings, "Lou" goes for the direct approach, and it works. It's a short that parents can use as a point of discussion with their kids after the film is over.

The "Cars" series may not be Pixar's biggest property, but "Cars 3" shows that it still has plenty of creative energy under the hood. While it turns the page on one chapter of the story, it also shows us that every end is also a new beginning, and there are more chapters to come.

Score: 8.5/10

"Cars 3" is rated G and has a running time of 1 hour and 49 minutes. It is showing in 2-D, 3-D, and IMAX 2-D.

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