“Cars 3” goes back to its franchise’s roots

For the juggernaut that is Pixar, the one consistent mark on an otherwise essentially spotless record has been the Cars franchise. Give or take one or two other outings that some people are higher on than others, this franchise is the only thing keeping the company from essentially a perfect record. This week, Cars 3 hits theaters and hopes to right the ship as it becomes part of a trilogy. Cars has a mixed reputation, but Cars 2 is Pixar’s somewhat red headed stepchild. Can Cars 3 change the trend? Well, yes and no. It’s going to be the best in the series to some or most, but it’s still very much lesser Pixar overall. I suppose your mileage may vary here (no pun intended) with this one.

This sequel looks at how racer Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) deals with no longer being the new kid on the block. Initially still the best in the business, super high tech and fast rookies like Jackson Storm (voice of Armie Hammer) begin besting him. Eventually, Lightning gets into a terrible wreck, essentially threatening to force retirement upon him. To avoid that, he has to look to not just the past advice of Doc Hudson (voice of the late Paul Newman), but also his mentor in the wise Smokey (voice of Chris Cooper). Think of a generic sports comeback story, or even just a mid life crisis type tale, and you have a fair idea how Cars 3 will go. Brian Fee directs and co-writes with a group consisting of Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson, Eyal Podell, Ben Queen, Mike Rich, and Jonathon E. Stewart. Randy Newman contributes the score. As for the large scale voice talent on display in supporting roles, they include, among others, Cristela Alonzo, Bob Costas, Nathan Fillion, Bonnie Hunt, Ray Magliozzi, Tom Magliozzi, Cheech Marin, Margo Martindale, John Ratzenberger, Tony Shalhoub, Kerry Washington, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and of course, Larry the Cable Guy.

For me, the film is just a bit too light and forgettable to fully work. To be fair, it looks absolutely phenomenal. The visuals are up there with anything ever showcased in animation. Just admiring the art of it all, the backgrounds especially are just amazing. It’s the script that lets you down. Honestly, not enough happens. Throw in some seemingly indifferent voice acting, and the end result is a definite mixed bag. Pixar has done worse for sure, but they’ve also done a lot better, plain and simple. One thing is certain for me…we don’t need a Cars 4. Not for lack of quality, but for a lack of a necessary story to tell.

Here now is how I would personally rank Pixar’s outings so far, including the now seen Cars 3:

17. Cars 2
16. Brave
15. Cars
14. The Good Dinosaur
13. Cars 3
12. A Bug’s Life
11. Monsters University
10. Ratatouille
9. Monsters, Inc.
8. Finding Nemo
7. Up
6. Inside Out
5. The Incredibles
4. Toy Story 2
3. Toy Story
1. Toy Story 3

Basically, this weekend offers kids something they’ll love and adults something that they’ll tolerate in Cars 3. It isn’t a bad film by any stretch, but Pixar has led us to believe we deserve better. Essentially, how you feel about this franchise will dictate how you feel about the movie. If you haven’t liked either of the previous ones, this probably won’t change things much for you. If you’re already in the bag for Lightning McQueen and company, this should showcase all the things you like best about it. Either way, if you have young children, I’m sure you’ll be seeing it anyway. Do your best to enjoy it, if only for the visuals if necessary…

Be sure to check out Cars 3, in theaters everywhere starting tomorrow!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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