Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Review: "Cars 3" is the best of the trilogy, a mediocre trilogy at best.

Cars 3 Review
I have loved, or at the very least enjoyed each Pixar movie. There was a long period of years where I felt the studio could do no wrong. From 1995 to 2010, it seemed like the studio was unstoppable. Even when it came to sequels. I will say that out of everything the studio has produced, my least favorite movies have been the "Cars" movies. Sure, they are fun and colorful just like all the other Pixar movies, but it seemed like one of the biggest examples of light entertainment, which I never came to expect from the studio. I liked the movie, don't get me wrong, but I LOVE the other Pixar movies of that era.

"Cars 2" is a movie I absolutely loath though. I really loath it. It's such a weird movie and a complete rejection of what made the first film work. This is a series about talking race cars, it should be a franchise about talking race cars. Adding in the international criminals and spy stuff felt forced more than anything, and the weird torture and killing scene felt uncomfortable to sit through for a kid's movie. The international race was widow dressing to a car-James Bond movie, the international race should have been the focus of the film, not the afterthought.

This brings me to "Cars 3," and for a trilogy I can't say I truly loved, through and through. I have got to say that "Cars 3" is the best of the bunch. I think this is the film Pixar was trying to make in the first place. There are no spy antics in this film, in fact, there are no goofy sideplots that deter the entire experience. "Cars 3" brings the audience back to the race track, where it belongs, and it adds something the Pixar movies are so good at, emotional depth.

"Cars 3" in lots of ways feels like the "Rocky Balboa" of the series. With some "Creed" seeds thrown in for good measure. Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is getting old, and washing up fast. He's not the big favorite he used to be and he's not as fast as he used to be. The new blood Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) is killing him at every new race. There is talk that McQueen should retire, there is talk that he should move on. But this is Lightning McQueen we are talking about, he can't move on. So he will do anything he can to stay in the race. There is lots of existential talk in the film though. About getting old, moving on and facing the new era of your life. Even though Pixar has touched on these themes before, there is no denying how relevant it feels in the context of the film.

If you think that "Cars 3" is just racer goes down, racer trains back, gets his flair back and wins the day, you're wrong. This really isn't that movie at all. Oh sure, it strings you along to make you think that's the movie, but it isn't. Lightning McQueen gets a trainer in the form of Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo). The movie goes out of its way to tell us that she's just a trainer and not a racer. Though she has dreamed of being a racer all her life. There is some defiant girl power going on in this movie, and I like the way the film tweaks expectations delivered in the movie. I like the "a girl can accomplish her dreams" message of the film, something that I think should be more relevant in these family blockbusters. It worked better than expected here.

"Cars 3" gets points for being a faithful sequel to the first film while also bringing something new to the forefront. But not so new that it doesn't feel connected to the first film. Larry The Cable Guy is still very funny as Mater. The film also features some of the best animation you'll probably see in a theater this year. In the end, it still is mostly a goofy car movie, and I don't think the humor lands in this one as well as it did in the previous two films. But the emotional beats are better than in the first two films.

FINAL GRADE: B

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