'Cars 3' is a formulaic return for Lightning McQueen

"Cars 3" (2017). (Pixar/Disney)


"Cars 3"
3 out of 5 stars
Brian Fee
Writers: Brian Fee, Ben Queen, Eyal Podell, Jonathon E. Stewart, Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson, Mike Rich
Starring: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper
Genre: Adventure, Comedy
Rated: G

Synopsis: A crop of young talent challenges the veteran Lightning McQueen’s racing dominance.

Review: Released in 2006, “Cars” was an enjoyable film that was a massive hit with children. It was the seventh feature film from Pixar and the first that I didn’t feel particularly passionate about. It wasn’t a bad film; it just wasn’t anything special. Not that I would envy any film that had to be the follow-up to “The Incredibles.”

“Cars 2,” Pixar’s twelfth film, was released in 2011. It was not warmly received by critics and proved to be the first of the studio’s films that wasn’t universally praised. Frankly, I hated the film. Still, children seemed to like it and the merchandise and toy sales went through the roof. Sure, Pixar was no longer viewed in the same light, but what’s a reputation as a story-first studio really worth anyway?

The good news is that “Cars 3” is considerably better than “Cars 2." It cuts back on the ugly American motif and pushes Mater back into a fringe role. Sure, the story is a retread of the first film told from a different perspective, as we see Lightning McQueen nearing the end of his career as younger talent rises up to replace him, but that’s a crime committed by “Evil Dead II,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and numerous other sequels (and a few “original” films). Ultimately, the problem with the franchise is that it inevitably has to end with a race in which the underdog exceeds expectations and drives off into the sunset with a trophy.

The problem, as I mentioned before, is that I wasn’t all that interested in the original film and the re-telling of its story isn’t nearly as well crafted. This probably won’t bother the younger members of the audience and the older crowd will probably be thankful enough that they aren’t being asked to watch “Cars 2” again. That’s not exactly an enthusiastic endorsement, but at least you can rest assured that you won’t leave the theater feeling fleeced.

Pixar might not be pushing the limits narratively with "Cars 3,” but it certainly is showing off when it comes to the technical aspects of the film. The animation is nothing short of spectacular, particularly when it comes to water and fine detail.

“Cars 3” will please fans of the franchise and entertain those who keep their expectations at a reasonable level. This isn’t vintage Pixar, but it’s a decent distraction.

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