I had the pleasure of screening “Cars 3” recently with my ten-year-old son, which is perfect since he was only a baby after the original film debuted in 2006. When Cars was released over a decade ago, I had three toddlers running around yelling “ka-chow!” Honestly, it’s like Lightning McQueen himself said, “ka-chow!” as the film started, and it all came back to me.
Within the first few minutes, we are welcomed by familiar faces from Radiator Springs and introduced to a host of new characters throughout the film – some you’ll love, others you’ll want to run off the road. The angles and perspectives that the animators give us really make you feel like you are on the race track alongside these cars going at 100+ speeds.
Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is back as he works to defend his status as world-champion and remain relevant in the game – both on the track and in life. After being on the top for ten years, he’s achieved his goals – being the best, having the status and living the good life.
Enter Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), a new aerodynamic rookie, one of the Next-Gen racers, who has a goal of being the fastest, the best, and has dreamt of beating McQueen since he was young. Sounds kind of familiar, right? Storm shakes up McQueen’s world when he does finally beat him, and it seems like our beloved #95 begins a mid-life crisis type of response to losing his first race to a youngster.
At that moment, we realize that the race that McQueen has known, has forever changed. It reminds me of life in general, and the fact that we are always evolving, times will always change, and we have two choices, either adapt and survive, or give up. This is no different for McQueen, as he quickly realizes after a near junkyard experience, that he needs to be the one to decide when he quits.
Unlike his late mentor, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), he has the chance to be in control of his destiny even after his accident. It is through this epiphany, encouragement from Sally Carrera (Bonnie Hunt), and a flashback moment that may – or may not – cause flash floods in your eyes, that McQueen makes the choice to keep moving forward until he is ready to stop.
McQueen’s new manager, Sterling (Nathan Fillion), enlists a tech-savvy, upbeat trainer who is the best of the best, Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), to get McQueen whipped into shape – mentally and physically – for the Florida 500, a race he must win in order to continue racing for Sterling and Rusteze. It is through their journey and unconventional training and adventures that we see an unlikely friendship develop and this carries the theme of mentorship throughout the story.
McQueen ends up seeking out Doc’s former coach, Smokey (Chris Cooper; inspired by legendary NASCAR mechanic Smokey Yunick), along with three other past time racers, which is an homage to legendary NASCAR racers including Wendell Scott (Isiah Whitlock, Jr. as River Scott), Louise Smith (Margo Martindale as Louise “Barnstormer” Nash), Junior Johnson (himself as Junior “Midnight” Moon), and gets his tires dirty to train for his big race. Along the way, he meets Miss Fritter (Lea DeLaria) and a hilarious crew of demolition derby vehicles! This film is not short on laughs, and it will keep the kids talking about it nonstop.
From my son’s perspective, his favorite part was when Lightning McQueen met Cruz Ramirez. He loved her upbeat attitude and just giggled through their initial encounter! I appreciate all the humor sprinkled throughout, and we can always count on Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) to bring in the laughs just at the right time.
We then meet Natalie Certain (Kerry Washington), statistical analyst who, at the beginning really knows everything there is about the cars’ probability of winning. As the story develops though, and much like many of the characters in the film, she has a change of heart and begins to see that sometimes passion and heart need to be given a chance more than numbers.
One of the prominent things that I took to heart from the film is the importance of believing in others while allowing the strength of others’ belief in you, to fuel your drive towards success in life. This is a true-to-heart Pixar story that will have you laughing, crying, and reflecting along the way, just as we should from any journey that we take in life.
Thematically, this third (and final?) installment of the “Cars” world is by far my favorite, tackling subjects like grief and loss, elements for somewhat of an older audience than the last two, and offer real teachable moments for our kids. Visually, it provides so much stimulation and realism (and I didn’t even see it in 3D), that I felt like I was on the track with the cars. Kudos to everyone involved with the making of “Cars 3”, you have a winner in my book!
Our rating: 4/5
Details (from IMDB) –
- Runtime: 109 minutes
- Rating: G
All reviews are personal opinions and may not reflect the attitudes of other writers for DisneyExaminer.com unless stated otherwise.
These films have been screened prior to the release date for review purposes and therefore are viewed without charge courtesy of The Walt Disney Studios.