It’s been awhile since I’ve watched the Cars series. While it may not be one of Pixar’s finest films, I still enjoyed it. I haven’t seen the second film but I’m aware of the reception it’s received.
Synopsis: To get back in the game, Lightning McQueen will need the help of an eager young race technician with her own plan to win, inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet, and a few unexpected turns. (Rovi)
Starring: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, and Chris Cooper
Writers: Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson, and Mike Rich
Director: Brian Fee
Running Time: 109mins
For those who may not have been fans of Cars 2, this new entry seems to skip over that film (as far as I’ve read) and returns the focus back on Lightning McQueen (Wilson) and chronicles his rise back to the top after a freak accident threatens his racing career. He was definitely not the same racecar he used to be, approaching the end of his career but he wasn’t willing to retire just yet despite increased competition from highly advanced rookies such as Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer).
For an animated children’s film, there was a surprising amount of emotion here. McQueen still believed that he was capable of coming back and competing and to try to get back to the top, he had the help of a trainer named Cruz Ramirez (Alonzo). In order to continue his career for his new sponsor and boss Sterling (Nathan Fillion), he would have to win the next race on the schedule. Their training was a battle between old school and new school as their personalities didn’t quite mesh at first but they became closer over time as they learned more about one another.
As they began to understand each other, McQueen looks to the past, featuring a few fun flashbacks (welcome back Paul Newman), to find himself and regain the confidence to compete. We also learned that Ramirez had aspirations to become a racecar herself but lacked confidence. These characters were fun to watch together as their relationship grew and for all intensive purposes, training each other. This was still McQueen’s job to lose, however, as others did not see Ramirez as a racecar.
The film focused heavily on the relationship between McQueen and Ramirez and causing other subplots to suffer slightly as a result. In the little time he had, Storm was a one-dimensional villain but was still effective. Sterling also kind of served as a villain and a satire of greedy billionaires. This was okay, however, it may go over the heads of younger viewers. Finally, the familiar characters from the series were relegated to mostly background roles. This included the polarizing Mater (Larry the Cable Guy).
As mentioned, instead of villains, it relied on sharing an important message which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise for those who watch it and should also appeal to younger viewers. The humor mostly hit and should appeal to younger viewers as well. The animation goes without saying. The world is full of color and detail and the races were exciting to watch. The voice acting was excellent all around with Wilson and Alonzo as McQueen and Ramirez were both compelling to watch and had good chemistry together. Hammer was effective as Storm.
The film was also preceded by a short about a lost-and-found box and the unseen monster within. It was cute and basically taught a bully how to become a better person.
Overall, this was a good animated film with an unexpected amount of emotion and a message that should appeal to younger viewers. It was also a compelling redemption story featuring beautiful animation and great vocal performances.
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