Anyone who knows me knows that I love Pixar. They have provided my generation with animated classics finding heart, humor, and emotion in ideas that seem poised to fail. However, Pixar’s track record as of late has been very hit-and-miss, alternating between tear-inducing masterpieces like “Inside Out” and serviceable fair like “Brave”. Every film studio has a few hiccups, but Pixar used to be the outlier, the company my generation could depend on for grade-A entertainment, and, if anything, allow us now 20-somethings to watch an animated movie and not have to lower our standards “because it’s for kids”.
“Cars 3” wants desperately to be one of the great Pixar movies: At points it delivers honest truths about the cruel nature of the racing industry and has a great number of laughs, but the film is less than the sum of its parts. For every emotional moment, witty line, or thrilling race sequence, there is a lazy joke or painful bit of writing. The film is caught between being a more realistic dramedy dealing with mature themes, or just settle with entertaining young children (which, in my theater, it completely failed to do). I’ve definitely seen worse children’s films, but “Cars 3” hurt me more because it had promise.
We once again follow Lightning McQueen (Voiced by a bored-sounding Owen Wilson) at the top of his game, with pals Mater (Voiced by Larry the Cable Guy), Sally (Voiced by Bonnie Hunt), and all the other side “caracters” by his side. However, Lightning’s racing career is threatened by rising hotshot Jackson Storm (Voiced by Armie Hammer), who causes him to wreck during a big race and take time out to change his game plan at a tech-heavy training center. Unfortunately, Lightning is paired with ultra fangirl Cruz, who is as good at training as I am at calculus, forcing him to work harder than ever, and possibly realize that he’s reached the end of the road.
I have never loved this franchise. “Cars” was fine if unremarkable, and “Cars 2” was total kiddishness. “Cars 3” falls somewhere in the middle, with unexpected drama and moments of poignancy, but also having the overly childish humor. I thoroughly enjoyed the racing sequences in this film, and there are several moments of witty banter that made me laugh out loud, but those elements failed to coalesce into an entertaining whole for me. The film wants to emulate “Toy Story 3”, which was more of a dark prison drama than a family comedy, but the difference between the two franchises is that “Toy Story” entertained kids AND adults, while “Cars” primarily entertains kids. Kids who loved the first two films in this series will love this one too, but those of us who never understood the appeal of this series will gain very little from this one.
“Cars 3” has occasional funny lines, good racing sequences, and unexpectedly poignant drama, but childish humor once again kills any dramatic weight that could have existed otherwise.
Images courtesy of IMDB