Cars 3 captures lightning in a bottle

cars3posterCars 3 (2017)
G | 1h 49min | Animation, Adventure, Comedy | 16 June 2017 (USA)

Synopsis: Lightning McQueen sets out to prove to a new generation of racers that he’s still the best race car in the world.

Review: I should start this review with a disclaimer. As the father of a five year old I have seen the first two CARS films more times than I could possibly count. So the release of CARS 3 is very important to our household and much anticipated. The characters are more ingrained and recognizable than any other franchise. Luckily Disney/Pixar realized what didn’t work in the second Cars movie and returned to letting McQueen lead the pack in this one.

It has been eleven years (in movie years) since the rookie sensation Lightening McQueen (Owen Wilson) took the racing world by storm. Now he is older and not as quick off the line. With all the new, stronger, faster cars like Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) on the rise he has to find a way to compete. Even with a trainer like Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) it’s going to take a miracle. But no one has more heart and determination than Lightnin’.

There is something very special about the Cars brand. Pixar has harnessed the power and metaphors of racing and placed them in lovable, meaningful characters. Unlike other animated films you get lost in the personification. The cars become real, breathing, emotional beings. Small details have huge results. The simplicity of putting the eyes on the windshield instead of the headlights. That decision alone gets taken for granted but goes far in legitimizing the human element. Also the cars convey a wide range of motions that are rarely presented in a G rated film. Anger, rivalry, fear, sadness, depression. We see McQueen and his co stars go through these and many more. It is why when watching you laugh with your heart and often shed a tear from the same well. It takes you on a journey.

This edition has more heart and taps into the emotions more so than any of the previous ones. Much of this will be lost on the younger viewers but the older audience members will feel each line of dialogue. I am not embarrassed to say that this film moved me and touched me as much as any Oscar winning drama. If the story is powerful enough then it doesn’t matter if the lines are delivered by Daniel Day Lewis or a rusty old van. This one is about friendship, loyalty, and finding the will to complete the race; even if the finish line is far different than you anticipated.

Like the first Cars, this one looks and sounds fantastic. The detail of each scene is jaw dropping. When you look at some of the stills you swear it is not animated. It is slick and clean when needed but not scared to get dirty and gritty. There is an electricity in this one that is hard to clarify. But man does it work.

An endearing part of the Cars franchise is of course all the cars. Mater, Flo, Ramone, Sally, Luigi, Guido, all play a part in this one. But only when needed. There is a balance to the humor. We all love Mater but this story line is far too complex for him. Yes he shows up and cracks us up but only as a quick break in the tension. The writers knew what they had here and weren’t willing to spoil the moment. If you want a heavy dose of git er done then Cars 2 is available on Blu-ray and DVD. This is not that film. Thankfully.

CARS 3 is rated G. Let that sink in. A G rated film that older audiences take away as much as the kiddos. They don’t need the wink wink nudge nudge one liners. The meat of the story stands on its own. Period. The Pixar writers should walk with swagger. They prove it can be done. I give this outing 4 out of 5 oil pans. Plenty of fun, new characters mingled with the ones we love; toped off with an ending that will lift your spirits and stir your heart.