In its 22-year history, Pixar Animation has made a name for itself as a studio that makes movies that
parents can enjoy just as much as their kids—with one notable exception. 11 years ago, Pixar released
Cars, a film about anthropomorphized cars which garnered moderate critical and financial success, but
launched a franchise due to massive toy sales.
After the critical and financial disappointment of 2011’s Cars 2, Pixar went back to the drawing
board for the series’ third installment, Cars 3. The latest film ignores the events of Cars 2, and shifts
focus back to the original lead character, racecar Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson). In this film,
Lightning comes to terms with the potential end to his racing career. Although beautiful animation and
surprising emotional depth produce an engaging experience, Cars 3’s clunky pacing and death of 3-
dimensional characters keep it from breaking out of the franchise’s ‘mostly for kids’ label.
Cars 3 begins with a very similar opening to that of the first Cars movie; characters both old and
new are introduced to the audience through racing sequences. These sequences are visually interesting,
but hardly any of the new racers display much character depth or even a distinct personality. Nearly
every announcer car or analyst car is only there to provide exposition, and Lightning’s racer friends, Carl
Weathers (Kyle Petty) and Bobby Swift (Angel Ogunendo) are so one-note as to be forgettable.
Lightning’s new rival Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) is almost a carbon-copy of Chick Hicks from Cars
and Francesco Bernoulli from Cars 2.
The film’s plot borrows from classic underdog stories like Rocky, as Lightning works to earn his
way back into his sport following a major crash. The scenes of Lightning working with professional
trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) are reasonably entertaining (especially for kids). Like many good
sports movies, the second act introduces thematic elements and character details which are successfully
paid-off during the climactic sporting event (in this case, a race with Jackson Storm). However, these
middle scenes and others are hampered by the fact that Cruz is the film’s only original character that is
both relatable and not a near-clone of a previous Cars character. The film’s focus remains on Lightning
and Cruise though, which is enough to keep you invested in the narrative during the generic training
Cars 3 demonstrates that with the Cars movies, Pixar appears to have different goals in mind
than with their other, more artistically inclined films. It seems at times that the quality of the three films
is secondary to the number of new toys and playsets which they introduce. As a film, Cars 3 is a vast
improvement over Cars 2, and may even be a touch better than Cars. It is a film that kids will love and
parents may find entertaining. The bottom line, though, is that Cruz Ramirez plush toys and “Thunder
Hollow Crazy 8 Demolition Crash” playsets are now available at your local Disney Store.