Review: Pixar's 'Cars 3' Starring Owen Wilson, Armie Hammer, & Cristela Alonzo

Cars is the most maligned franchise of Pixar's stable of IPs. Critics and adults love to beat up on the franchise starring Owen Wilson’s Lightning McQueen and his journey to be the best racer in a world full of living and breathing vehicles. While the sequel and its focus on Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) and his fish out of water super spy story weren't the best it was still a pretty fun movie if you think more like a kid who loves toy cars more than as an adult wondering how cars have babies. That brings us to Cars 3, out of the gate being hated on by summer movie release list posts and movie critics online before they have seen a frame. Can this toy backed animated franchise succeed in the bookending trilogy? Let’s see.

Cars 3 begins with our star Lightning McQueen in the later era of his racing career in the middle of the racing season. Still, the star of racing he did well against his rival and other cars of his generation. Soon he meets Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) a new up and coming racer who uses his new training techniques and skills to easily beat all the guys. There is then a flood of new racers like Jackson pushing the older guys out. Lightning gets injured and the film goes on to show his journey to prove that he’s not done and that he can still compete. Pretty much this film is a sports underdog movie. Just as much as Cars is the fish out of water Doc Hollywood story, Cars 3 doubles down on sports movie tropes, a lot that we see in those Disney ones, to be honest. The dynamic of Lightning’s journey to get back to form partnered with the new character of Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) reminds you purposefully of the dynamic of Lightning and Hudson from the first movie but does so with a different dynamic. Wilson’s voice doesn’t have the gravitas of a Paul Newman but Wilson does well to bounce off of Alonso in their back and forth.

With so much focus on new characters and Lighting, you do get a loss of some old favorites from the earlier movies. There really isn’t much Mater but to be honest, he’s in so many shorts and had a whole film focused on him but I did miss the other folks from radiator springs and Bonnie Hunt’s Sally Carrera. The film does feel a bit long at almost two hours, almost like they didn’t know how to edit the story down any more. While the film has some very great artistic details I think it doesn’t have a lot of visually impressive scenes in most of the film. It left me wanting more on the scenes outside of the race track as they seemed to focus on making them look as dynamic as possible which is hard at a time when car video games can look so good and real that you can’t really tell the difference from real life TV racing.

Overall I really like Cars 3 a ton. It has a lot of heart and deals with age, sports and even women in athletics, especially racing very well. I think it’s a solid release and hopefully families really enjoy it. There are some cars in here I can’t wait to see as toys which I think is a real draw for making these movies again and again. Maybe I’m not critical enough but Cars 3 was totally worth the trip.
Rating: 4 out of 5