The Hippo


Jul 22, 2019








Cars 3

Cars 3 (G)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

Lightning McQueen contemplates aging and career transition — as kids do — in Cars 3, the third in the Pixar animated movie series.

Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) still loves racing and being cheered on, especially by friends Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy), Sally (voice of Bonnie Hunt), Ramone (voice of Cheech Marin), Mack (voice of John Ratzenberger), Guido (voice of Guido Quaroni) and Luigi (voice of Tony Shalhoub). But suddenly, new race cars are getting the glory. Designed and trained with scientific precision, these faster rookies are led by Jackson Storm (voice of Armie Hammer), who goes the extra mile to make McQueen feel like a has-been.
After a crash, McQueen falls into a slump, returning to Radiator Springs to sulk and watch old movies of his old mentor Doc Hudson (voice of the late Paul Newman courtesy of unused audio recorded for the 2006 Cars, according to a story from Entertainment Weekly). When McQueen does return to racing, he finds he has a new sponsor, Sterling (voice of Nathan Fillion), who may be more interested in McQueen’s brand power than his racing career. He also gets some new training tech and a trainer, Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo), who treats McQueen like a geriatric. She won’t even let him on the simulator, while McQueen is eager to get back on a real track.
As training leaves McQueen feeling discouraged, he sets off to find Smokey (voice of Chris Cooper), the car who mentored Doc. 
The fact that animated cars are the characters having various crises of confidence in Cars 3 doesn’t mitigate the fact that those cars are talking about adult-relatable themes such as life regret, growing older, losing mentors and facing a change in one’s identity. At the screening where I saw this movie, I heard a lot of general fidgetiness that to me signified that the youngest members of the audience were bored with the many talky scenes. Heck, I was bored.
I revisited my reviews of the previous Cars movies and many of the same factors at play in those movies are true here as well. As with the previous two movies, there is some really magnificent animation here. When Lightning goes to the run-down racetrack of Hudson’s youth, the detail work is beautiful —  paint curling on old signs, a photo-realistic chain link fence. The way voice and car come together when Lightning talks to the old-timers — particularly cars voiced by Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Margo Martindale — is spot on. I wished I could hang out in these moments, get a better look around and hear Martindale talk about her lady race car exploits.
But then there’s the endless discussion about Lightning’s race career and the jibber-jabber about confidence that is so superficial for most of the movie that it doesn’t really resonate. There is a harshness about the way characters get mad at each other in this movie. It feels like a streak of meanness that isn’t needed and sours the overall experience. (For an example of how mean behavior can be shown as wrong while having context and still allowing a character to have an emotional arc, see Lou, a short film that runs before this movie. The items in a lost and found box take it upon themselves to be returned and to teach a lesson in empathy.)
And the movie is full of what feels like a lot of unearned sentimentality. We hear the posthumous voices of Tom Magliozzi and Paul Newman and someone approximating George Carlin’s voice (Lloyd Sherr, who took over the hippie VW Bus character Fillmore). Yes, it was sweet to hear, probably for the last time, a “don’t drive like my brother, don’t drive like my brother” exchange between Dusty (Ray Magliozzi) and Rusty (the late Tom Magliozzi). And, yes, Doc Hudson flashbacks are also poignant. But these things really have more to do with the feelings I have about these real-world people and maybe to a lesser degree the characters they played in previous movies, not so much what’s happening in this movie.
In large part, I watched Cars 3 with this question in mind: is this movie (one of the few G-rated movies to hit theaters) a movie I want to take my young kids to? I think they would like the final 20-or-so minutes, when the movie really does finally come together to offer a blend of fun visuals, characters doing adventurous and cartoony things and emotional pay-off. But the road to that point feels like it would be a dull slog. B-
Rated G. Directed by Brian Fee with a screenplay by Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich, Cars 3 is an hour and 49 minutes long (or, at least 25 minutes longer than a G-rated movie should be) and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios. 

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