Set the scene.
Establishing shot of movie theater. Cut to interior, movie theater lobby. Four families with very young children move between register and fountain drink machine while one 23 year old man approaches the front.
“One ticket for the 11am screening of Cars 3, please”, he said. This request is met with a bewildered facial expression, as if the employee was looking for the children that I forgot to purchase tickets for. He hands me my ticket and appears to wish me good luck, or at least that’s how I interpreted his final glance.
Before the film even began, a young boy (approximately 10 years old) spills his popcorn all over the back row. “This is the worst day of my life”, he groaned. Without looking even more like a creep than I already do, I shoot a look in his general direction, as if to say “Same”. He doesn’t catch it.
I guess it makes the most sense to start off a Pixar review by discussing the short film attached at the top, right? This short was called Lou, and it was really fun. It’s essentially about a living lost and found box on a kindergarten playground that can continuously rearrange the formation of each individual piece of it’s body to move differently. That aspect alone is one of the more interesting things I’ve seen in animation, and is worth the idea altogether. The beginning of “lost” and the middle of “found” are missing on the box, so that’s where we get “Lou” from. Anyways, Lou sees that one child is bullying the other kids and taking their things, so he jumps into action to retrieve their possessions. After seeing a nametag on his backpack that matches a stuffed animal in his box, Lou offers the toy back if the kid returns everything back to the rightful owners. After he has done this, the child realizes that Lou is no more since all the pieces have been returned, but his stuffed animal remains in the box. The kids then go and have fun together.
It’s a neat little short that isn’t trying to say all that much, but the interesting characterization of Lou and the lack of any dialogue does make for a fun and enjoyable watch.
And now, to get to the content that literally every moviegoer was waiting for: the arrival of Cars 3. FINALLY.
Pixar is mostly a company of original films. Sure, Toy Story got two sequels (and a third incoming), but those range from good to very good. Monster’s University and Finding Dory are varying levels of unnecessary but fine, and everyone still has their fingers crossed that The Incredibles 2 is turn out well. Cars has been by far the weakest franchise of the bunch, with Cars 2 being pretty universally held as the worst Pixar film to date.
I’ve got good news. Cars 3 is actually pretty good.
Cars 3 returns to the story of Lightning McQueen and his racecar adventures, instead of Mater’s espionage in the sequel. This time, McQueen isn’t the fastest car in all the land. The new models are showing him up, especially rookie Jackson Storm. Lightning has to go back to basics and have several training montages before he can face the decision of whether he needs to retire or not. Pretty dramatic stuff, I know.
I don’t think I’m really going to do much for further plot discussion because 1) This is Cars 3 that we’re talking about and 2) You already get it if you’ve seen literally any sports movie ever.
I believe that Cars 3 is the best Cars movie there is. I know that may not be a serious leap in quality, but it’s something to be glad about regardless. I was really only hoping for “better than Cars 2“, so this was a pleasant surprise. One of the best things about this that sets it apart from the previous two films is that it has the least amount of Larry The Cable Guy yet, and less of that is always better. The new additions to the voice cast are also really helpful, with Cristela Alonzo as co-lead and Armie Hammer, Nathan Fillion, and Chris Cooper in smaller roles. The time that this film takes in actually establishing emotional connections for characters I never cared about is impressive too.
In the end, the storytelling is incredibly familiar (especially if you’ve seen Rocky III) and no new ground is broken, but the film is perfectly fine and enjoyable and the first Pixar sequel to surpass the original. Don’t go out of your way to see it, but you should be pleased if you were already on your way in the first place.
Cars 3 : 6/10