Saturday, July 08, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Cars 3 (2017)

CARS 3 (2017) was released while we were on our recent road trip, and I was able to finally catch up with it at Downtown Disney during this past week's visit to the Grand Californian Hotel.

I enjoyed the original CARS (2006) but haven't yet caught up with CARS 2 (2011); I haven't been in a hurry as it disappointed several people whose opinions I respect. I'll get to it sometime just to see the complete trilogy, but meanwhile I was glad to hear that seeing the second film wasn't necessary in order to enjoy CARS 3. By all accounts, CARS 3 is considerably better than the second film.

Following a track mishap, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is ready to get back in the racing game, but Sterling (Nathan Fillion), the new owner of Rust-eeze, is concerned that Lightning having further losses or accidents will damage the brand, including future merchandise revenue.

Sterling agrees for Lightning to give it one more try at a Florida racetrack, if he's coached by Cruz (Cristela Alonzo), who has new ideas to get Lightning back into racing shape.

Along the way to Florida, Lightning and team meet up with Smokey (Chris Cooper), who mentored Doc, aka Hudson Hornet (Paul Newman, heard in old recordings). Lightning increasingly realizes it might be time for him to move on from racing, and he simultaneously realizes that Cruz has it in her to be a racer herself.

I found CARS 3 quite enjoyable. There's nothing new or surprising about it, given this is the third film in the series, but it has a solid story and is always visually interesting. The business aspect of the storyline was realistic, and the "mentorship" theme was also well done. I found a related tribute to Newman's Hudson Hornet near the end quite moving.

The "girl power" type theme which has been an integral part of several animated and live-action Disney movies of the last couple years is present, but happily it doesn't constantly smack the audience in the head as was the case with last year's ZOOTOPIA (2016). It feels more organic and evolves naturally based on Cruz's established skill set.

My main quibble is that I didn't care for a key mid-race transition near movie's end; the film took care to explain why it was okay under the rules but it didn't feel right to me.

On the plus side, it was great to hear so many familiar voices again, including Bonnie Hunt in a brief appearance as Sally and John Ratzenberger as Mack, Lightning's transport truck. Also in the cast are Armie Hammer, Larry the Cable Guy, Tony Shalhoub, Cheech Marin, Darrell Waltrip, and Richard and Kyle Petty.

CARS 3 was directed by Brian Fee. The movie runs 102 or 109 minutes, depending on the source; wish I'd been watching the clock! As with most movies these days, it could have stood a little paring down to a shorter running time.

From other reviewers: Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote "The kind of comfort and satisfaction these films offer is not something we can afford to take for granted," while Leonard Maltin found "The production and character design...meaningful and clever." I agree on both counts.

Parental Advisory: CARS 3 is rated G.

The Pixar short accompanying CARS 3 is LOU (2017), about a creature formed from items in a school "lost and found" box who helps teach a bully a lesson. It was creative and pleasant to watch, if a bit pat in its resolution. LOU was written and directed by Dave Mullins.


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