As a mom of two boys, I am accustomed to dirt, dust, and nearly every task turning into a race or competition. The Disney/Pixar series Cars has been in our library and on rotation in our household for quite some time, so a trip to the theater for the newest installment – Cars 3 – was certainly in order for our family.
The third take in the series quickly races to the top of the list in the Cars Movie trilogy as a fast favorite. The wrong turns Cars 2 made nearly 6 years ago have been quickly recovered in this movie – proving the sequel was simply a pit stop for the franchise. Pixar steers Cars 3 back on track and delivers much heart and soul into the storyline.
Out of the gate this movie stuns with its’ impressive use of CGI (computer generated imagery) making some scenes incredibly realistic and leaving us to question whether or not they shot legit live footage and only sprinkled in the animation. In spite of what we’ve come to expect from Pixar with regard to impeccable animation, viewers will still be amazed at the visual aspects of the film.
The storyline lends itself to all of the things that we presume in this series like racetracks, talking cars, and guest appearances by Darrell Cartrip and Bob Cutlass (naturally voiced by Darrell Waltrip and Bob Costas). We find Lightning McQueen, played by Owen Wilson, at the front of the pack racing to finish in first place at the checkered flag, except that he doesn’t. He’s quickly beaten by a new, younger, and faster racer named Jackson Storm, who is voiced by Armie Hammer. A new day has dawned and our once defined underdog Lightning McQueen seems set for retirement. McQueen, however, is adamant about being the one to decide when it’s time to complete the race. He sets out on a journey to redefine the finish line. Along the way we see a cast of familiar characters such as Sally Carrera, played by Bonnie Hunt, and of course Mater, who has been made famous by Larry The Cable Guy. But the times, they are a changin’ and at the advice of his pit crew he sets out to change the way he trains for his next race using all of the technological advances now available. His new sponsor Sterling, played by Nathan Fillion, introduces him to an enthusiastic, young female trainer named Cruz Ramirez, voiced by Cristela Alonzo; together they work to get him in shape for what could be his last go around the track.
This third installment in the Cars series focuses on racing and competition including the subtle life lessons involved in the sport, such as not giving up and training hard for something you really want. The pace of the film starts out slow and may leave parents a bit fidgety, but kids will be charmed in the personalities of each car and undoubtedly leave the theater with aspirations of owning all of the latest franchised toys from the movie.
For parents though, the work when you leave the theater will be in explaining the deeper theme depicted in the gift of mentorship. Certainly the subject is intricately woven throughout the movie with Lighting McQueen recalling the wisdom of his biggest encourager, Doc Hudson, whose voice was pieced together well by Pixar – featuring Paul Newman posthumously. And this may be a stretch, but if explained well, the movie offers an opportunity for us to dig a bit deeper and share the wisdom in recalling the voice of the Lord in moments when we’re unsure about what to do. The overarching theme of the movie will provide parents with weighty talking points about helping our friends win, the importance of teamwork and building each other up with our words and actions.
Reviews for Cars 3 will surely applaud Pixar for putting a female racer on its track, but if there a miss in this movie at all it is that Cruz is riddled with self-doubt. Although she is seemingly written to be a confident, motivational trainer, once the layers are pulled back she’s easily talked out of her own dreams and it’s a bummer that she doesn’t know her own worth. Maybe we’re expecting too much of the writers at Pixar, but on the heels of an incredible opening weekend for Wonder Woman, it was a bit of a letdown. The ending though does leave an open door to a Cruz driven sequel, so here’s to hoping she’ll be confidently driving into theaters soon!
This G rated film is an easy family date night pick. Outside of the speed and racing nature of the movie and a couple car accidents that leave McQueen and others a bit beat up, there is nothing here to discourage a trip to the theater. From a parenting perspective, the weight of the movie may be in deciding whether or not to dive deeper into the life lessons depicted in the film.
Cars 3 heads in the right direction teaching us that in life there will be bullies like Jackson Storm and certainly we won’t always finish the way we want, but the character building moments occur just past the checkered flag, away from the lights and cameras and in loving others well. Thankfully, Pixar delivered this message loud and clear!