Cars 2 was completely awful – I think we can all agree on this. As most of the people who spent their time and money on this film left the theater confused and disappointed. Thankfully, Pixar listened to our disappointment and took the time to give Cars a quality third act that could lead to multiple sequels or end the franchise with a great story.
Cars 3 conveniently forgets that Cars 2 ever existed (thankfully) and takes us back to what we originally loved about the first film – racing. We get to see Lightning McQueen doing what he loves to do best which is leaving his opponents in the dust.
Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) now a seven-time Piston Cup winning legend is suddenly overshadowed by a newcomer named Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), who’s cutting-edge technology and statistical analysis allows him to be faster and stronger than any other car. To make things worse, he is also involved in a horrific crash that threatens to end his racing career.
Having to deal with the cold, hard truth that his days as a racer might be coming to an end, McQueen springs a deal with his new sponsor Sterling (Nathan Fillion), who is more concerned with protecting his brand from harm. If he loses his next race in Florida, he will retire for good. But if he wins, he will get to decide when he retires. Which Sterling reluctantly agrees with.
Lightning goes on the road to train for the race of his life. Coming with him are his friends and regular pit crew, Mack (John Ratzenberger), Luigi (Tony Shalhoub), and Guido (Tony Shalhoub), as well as young racing trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo). Cars 3 is the sequel to Cars that we never knew we deserved or needed, and to be honest never thought we would ever get. Mater hardly makes an appearance in this third film, which is one of the movie’s plus points. We certainly got enough of him in the last film.
Cruz Ramirez is the no doubt star of this film, as soon as she revs up on the screen she completely takes over and demands your full attention. As she and McQueen bond more and more, the layers of her history are put on full display. Her growth of confidence in the film slowly rises and by the end of the film she becomes the star. As McQueen pulls over and allows Ramirez to take center stage, she wins her first Piston Cup.
By putting the focus back on McQueen and the racing, we not only get to see the character’s arc come full circle, but we also see an expansion of Cars’ original story, making this seem like the second half of one really long movie. As they expand on ideas and the growth of the characters from the first film. It reminds us why we wanted a sequel of sorts, in the first place.
It also serves as a long-overdue tribute to the late, great, Paul Newman, who voiced McQueen’s mentor Doc Hudson in the 2006 original movie. Newman died in 2008, and the loss of Doc Hudson plays a major factor in Cars 3’s plot. As we see McQueen become more of a Doc Hudson to Cruz and help her achieve her dream of becoming a racer.
Cars 3 is not without flaws as no movie is of course. The voice cast doesn’t really stand out, as they do not get that many chances to fully speak. Compared to Pixar’s other movies, the franchise is still one of its weakest and least memorable, though it’s still the studio’s most kid-friendly series.
If you were never a fan of Cars, you will probably feel the same way about this one. But if you are a fan, then you will probably enjoy seeing Lightning McQueen get his lap of honor. You will also love the addition of a female lead who shines like never before.