Although it’s hardly the most eagerly anticipated Pixar film of recent years, Cars 3 is great fun. While elements of the plot are nonsensical or just not adequately thought through, both the screenplay and the animation provide plenty of laughs.
Pixar’s automobiles are still not the most expressive characters on their roster, yet animation excels in both the accompanying short, LOU, which really taps into childlike imagination, and in the scenic long-distance dustbowl landscapes that the main feature’s characters drive through.
Cars 3’s aping of American society is well-observed – the Italian characters are still the funniest – though it does rely on shallow social stereotyping. Though the plot this time around is overstuffed with characters, some of the new figures are worthy additions, such as goofy, neurotic trainer Cruz (Cristelo Alonzo) and an angry school bus hilariously brought to life by Orange is the New Black’s Lea DeLaria.
Armie Hammer, however, feels like too obvious a choice for Lightning McQueen’s new rival on the track, while the film’s backstage corporate antagonist is almost completely irrelevant to the plot. A large team of writers is always a red flag, so it’s no surprise that the story falls short. Despite the frustrating stop-start structure which flaws the first half, a good underdog story, particularly one where the friendships are well-established and painted with such sweet sincerity, has the potential to become infectious. Cars 3 is no exception. Although the underdog trajectory is itself expected, the exact road the movie offers provides a-ha surprise rather than predictability.
Perhaps sensing the series is on its last legs, Pixar use Cars 3 for reflections on aging, retirement and technological development, yet this darker turn never stops the fun. It’s B-grade Pixar; it may be imbued with topical themes, yet individual moments shine brighter than the faltering whole.
CAST: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Armie Hammer, Nathan Fillion, Kerry Washington
DIRECTOR: Brian Fee
WRITERS: Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich (screenplay), Brian Fee, Ben Queen, Eyal Podell and Jonathon E. Stewart (story)
SYNOPSIS: Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician.