Dog’s Movie House: “Cars 3” Lovable End To Cars Trilogy!
Howdy Folks! It’s The Kendog!
Pixar’s Cars franchise has always been considered the acclaimed studio’s red-headed stepchild. While the animation has always been top-notch, many felt the storytelling was more simplistic than classic Pixar fare like “Toy Story,” “Up,” and “Inside Out.” I find myself in that camp as well, but unlike some of my colleagues I very much enjoy the Cars films for what they are: wonderful cartoons designed primarily for kids. In the case of “Cars 3,” Pixar has decided to forget the Mater-centric “Cars 2” doesn’t exist and bring a nice, sentimental conclusion to the story of legendary racer Lightening McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson).
“Cars 3” starts with a nice montage of Lightening and his cohorts having great success on the track. McQueen doesn’t always win, but it’s clear that he’s building a legendary career. Things start to change when the young rookies show up, led by the pompous Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer). These new racers are more technologically advanced with crews that crunch data and use the latest in driver simulation equipment. This leads Lightening to overextend himself, leading to a devastating crash and, four months later, an attempt to make a comeback with the help of his new sponsor Mr. Sterling (Nathan Fillion) and plucky trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo).
You might think you know where “Cars 3” is going from a narrative standpoint, and for the most part, it does. But then there’s a third act turn that’s actually a nice touch and brings this trilogy to a close in just the right fashion. And even if you’re smart enough to figure it out, you’ll still have a ball going on McQueen’s journey, which is very reminiscent of “Rocky III” with McQueen as Balboa and Storm as a much nicer version of Clubber Lang. The idea of the old being muscled out in favor of the young is nothing new in cinema and certainly nothing new in sports, but here it’s handled with a certain amount of poise and grace and, of course, humor.
The animation in “Cars 3” is off-the-chain-incredible, giving a photorealistic look to everything with the exception of the eyes and mouths of the cars. The sound design is also incredible, with every roar of the engines, every squeal of the tires, and every screech of metal on metal sounding like it came out of a real stock car race. While the storytelling maybe somewhat clichéd and straightforward, you can’t deny the amount of love and craftsmanship that went into rendering this film.
Now when I say “clichéd,” believe it or not, I don’t mean that as a derogatory remark. There is a certain comfort to old fashioned story beats and emotional marks that hit the spot if they’re done well. “Cars 3” hits those marks better than most and I’m willing to bet you’ll be more emotionally connected to these animated machines then you will to most of the so-called human characters in most of the summer blockbusters this year.
The voice cast is uniformly outstanding, with Wilson doing sterling work as McQueen, presenting a more mature racer who nonetheless feels he has the right to decide when he’s finished racing. He fears being pushed out by the younger guys and is willing to do whatever it takes to get back in the game. Alonzo is wonderfully as the trainer Ramirez, who calls McQueen her “senior project” and works with an enthusiasm the belies her own desire to become a racer rather than a trainer. Fillion is appropriately smarmy as McQueen’s new sponsor. Returning characters such and Bonny Hunt’s Sally and Larry The Cable Guy’s Mater share time with new folks such as Chris Cooper’s Smokey, Margo Martindale’s Louise Nash and Kerry Washington’s Natalie Certain, an analyst who is more concerned about the numbers than the heart of racing. Special mention goes to the folks who give new life to Paul Newman’s Doc Hudson character, using a series of dialogue bits from the previous film to bring the legendary character back to life for some very emotionally satisfying flashbacks.
Interestingly enough, Larry The Cable Guy’s Mater isn’t featured much in this film. Perhaps first time director Brian Fee and his group of writers figured that the audience had had enough of him as the main character in the previous film. The result is just enough Mater for comic relief without having him overstay his welcome. It also fits him nicely into the overall story without his character feeling shoehorned in for unrelated laughs.
Overall, “Cars 3” is a wonderful capper to a trilogy that, over time, will probably become more well-regarded by both critics and fans. “Cars 3” may not rank among the classics of Pixar, but it’s certainly an entertaining way to spend a summer afternoon with your family. 4 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!