Cars 3 (REVIEW)
Here we are, the end of a trilogy 10 years in the making. Starting with the decent Cars, followed by Cars 2, a film I could not finish, now comes the third installment which thankfully is a huge improvement by way of the almost non existent Mater.
It feels as though Pixar has reached their "hit and miss" era. For every Inside Out, Finding Dory there is a Good Dinosaur (which has all but faded from memory of most people I'm sure) and Cars 3. It is a perfectly fine sports movie that is very much in the same vein as Cars but instead of it being a young McQueen trying to mature into a real racer its about a veteran trying to stay in the game when forceful retirement looms over his shoulder from stiff competition.
Not as hard hitting as some of the best aging sports films (though it does have similarities to the likes of Rocky) it is definitely a course correction for the franchise, examining what it means to get older and how you can come to terms with that while still feeling fulfilled. Adding some depth to a franchise that isn't exactly known for it. The McQueen crash you see in the teaser trailer is just as horrific in the film and really brings the character to a low that he has to crawl out of and try to get back on his own four wheels.
This is the first Cars film to not be directed by John Lasseter but instead Brian Fee and yet it still feels in the same vein as the others if not quite as in tune with his usual sensibilities and childhood wonder. While predictable I enjoyed how the film set things up and slowly switched gears as it took the focus away from McQueen and put it on towards Cruz Ramirez his female trainer. They go on a road trip of sorts to get McQueen back up to speed to take on Jackson Storm and the rest of the new crop of cars that are completely taking over the sport. It becomes a tail of two characters using each other to become good at something they didn't know they were good at and creating an unlikely team than what was originally planned and I thought that was a pretty cool idea for the film.
The animation in the film is at times quite breathtaking, the amount of work that must have gone into the various cross country shots must have been staggering, right up there with the majesty of The Good Dinosaur. There were times I forgot they were CG environments providing transitional treats to enjoy as we travel from place to place.
Randy Newman, the OG composer for Pixar brings back a feeling of the Toy Story films at times, similar sounding arrangements and instruments which I found to be a nice touch to keep things feeling "Pixar" despite some kind of odd song choices that like with most Disney films that try to add songs just doesn't work. Animated films are their own thing, to add songs from the real world just feels out of place.
It doesn't have quite the charm of the original adventure with the eclectic group of Radiator Springs but it makes up for it by giving McQueen a satisfying new mission to achieve and giving the character a new way to grow and change while throwing in some thrills. I also liked that it wasn't afraid to slow down and take it's time in parts to allow for some character beats in what should be the most rowdy series in the Pixar lineup. This was really the Cars 2 we were meant to get and feels like a good end point for the series. Now if they want to do some TV specials with wacky hi jinks I wouldn't mind but it feels as though this series has come to a close with a a decent finale that brings Lightning McQueen across the finish line with just enough gas in the tank for a victory lap.