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From Disney-Pixar, creators of FINDING DORY and Academy Award(R)winner INSIDE OUT (Best Animated Feature Film, 2015), comes an epic adventure packed with heart, hilarity and full-throttle FUN! Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers led by arrogant hotshot Jackson Storm, the legendary Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is suddenly sidelined and pushed from the sport he loves. To get back on track, he'll need the help of eager young racing technician Cruz Ramirez, inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected twists and turns of fate. Bring home the high-octane hit that's fully loaded with unforgettable characters and spectacular animation!
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First off it totally ignores the existence of Cars 2, which is a very good thing. That movie was weird. You do need to have seen Cars 1 to fully appreciate Cars 3, but you can easily skip Cars 2 and not be lost at all.
Cars 3 is more accurate to real life NASCAR with a lot of little details. Things like Lightning McQueen riding around Radiator Springs in grey primer with just his number 95 on his doors before the new racing season starts just like you see cars practicing for the Daytona 500 without their graphics painted on. And they reference the origins of stock car racing running moonshine. Plus a few more details like that. It's cool because it makes the story more 'realistic' (As realistic as a movie about autonomous talking cars can get) I loved those little details. There's also more large picture details about how the business of racing works that's cool too.
I absolutely loved the story. Without getting into any spoilers that ruin the big plot twist, I'll say that there is a great message about how the girl car shouldn't feel like she can't be who she wants to be just because she's a girl. Since I was watching with my daughter this was perfect!
I also like the message about how you shouldn't quit just because the competition is good. And how there is more to racing (and life ) than raw speed. There is intelligence and discipline that go into being a success. That's the main theme of the story, and isn't a spoiler. They make that pretty obvious in the trailers and TV ads for the movie. But it's a great message.
It's also just funny. It's a funny entertaining movie.
And they don't get rid of Sally the Porsche. She isn't in any of the trailers so I thought going in that they might have dropped her character, which I didn't like because I was hoping Lighting and Sally would still be together. (I'm sentimental. Sue me.) But she's in the first scene of the movie (so this isn't a spoiler) reminding you that she's still a character in the franchise.
They do change the voice actor for Chick Hicks. Michael Keaton does not return to voice the role. This was the only criticism I had for the movie. The role is very small in Cars 3, but with a different voice it feels awkward and out of place. I think it would have been better if they just left Chick Hicks out of Cars 3 if they couldn't get Michael Keaton to do the voice work.
They also change the voice actor for Philmore the hippie VW bus, but they have a good excuse there since George Carlin passed away. They new voice does a good job of replacing Carlin and also has very limited lines. So you barely notice.
Doc Hudson has a lot of speaking lines in flash back scene, especially considering that Paul Newman died nearly a decade ago. Doc plays a sizable role in flashbacks. I assume they used voice work from the original Cars that wasn't included in the first film to voice the character in Cars 3. However they did it, the Doc story line is a touching tribute to the character. (Doc is also deceased in the Cars universe)
If you liked the original Cars, then Cars 3 is a GREAT follow up that you need to see. (On that note if you hated Cars, you probably aren't going to like Cars 3.) I liked it as much as the original.
Note: There is an additional scene with Mater after the end credits. So if you go see this in the theater, stay until the very end for the short Mater scene.
McQueen (Owen Wilson) is still the hot shot race car he always was, still living in his adopted town of Radiator Springs and still friends with those he considers family there. But times have changed and he’s gotten older. A new breed of race car is on the tracks now, in particular an up and comer named Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer). The new cars are faster, train differently and are soon leaving McQueen in their dust. In an attempt to push past them he crashes.
Months pass and McQueen isn’t sure he wants to return to the track. It takes his friend Sally (Bonnie Hunt) to convince him this is what he truly wants. He heads back to Rust-ESE to get back in shape only to find his old friends Luigi and Guido have sold the business to tycoon Sterling (Nathan Fillion). Sterling has it in mind to market McQueen for all he can, endorsing nearly every possibility out there. To insure that he returns to the winner’s circle he’s employing the latest in technology and a trainer by the name of Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo).
McQueen does his best with the new system but this isn’t his style of training. After a crash on the simulator he realizes he needs to get back to his roots and heads for the beaches of Florida. Accompanying him is some old friends as well as Cruz. When they begin he spends more time teaching Cruz more than he getting himself ready. Unable to break the speed set by Jackson Storm he begins to give up hope until he thinks of one more possibility.
He goes to where it all began, where his mentor Doc was taught. There he finds Doc’s mentor Smokey (Chris Cooper) still alive along with several of Doc’s old friends. They’ve been expecting him and training in their fashion begins. But will it be enough for him to get back what he once had?
SPOILER ALERT! And here is where the entire film takes a different turn. When the big race comes in the fourth quarter of the film, McQueen bows out and allows Cruz to take his place. And this is what the real story of CARS 3 is all about, the passing of the torch from the older generation to the younger, giving the new comer the chance to bask in the same glory they once enjoyed.
Watching this I was reminded of the ROCKY films. The time had come for Stallone as Rocky to take off the gloves and start helping pass the torch, which he did. This film is doing the same thing and in doing so sets itself up for more movies down the line. Rather than deal with the question of an aging car still winning races against all comers we have a new hot rod in mind. Now it’s up to her to take that torch and carry it across the finish line…or not.
I’ve read a number of reviews that have bad mouthed this film and almost all had the same complaint: it wasn’t the same movie they’d seen before. It made me wonder why they didn’t see the positives in this film, the fact that it extended the life of the series with this new development. It also provides a great lesson for young people to learn and draws in older viewers as well who understand what it’s like to go through what McQueen does.
The animation by Pixar remains top of the line. I’ve seen other movies doing this sort of CGI animation and while good they don’t compare. The story moves along at a steady pace and never involves moments where you wish it would move along faster. It’s a compelling story that needs to be told.
It’s great that the voice over actors have returned time and time again to do the voices and keep continuity in doing so. New actors in new roles do an amazing job as well. Now if they will all continue to do so in the future.
CARS 3 is not the first film but one unto itself. It may involve the same characters but there is a slightly different story going on here. Push play and know that going in and you’ll be delighted to see the old crew, the new crew and the new story unfold. For me it was a delight and a movie I know I’ll pop back in every once in a while. Come to think of it this would make a great movie marathon with the first 2 for my younger nieces and nephews. Time to go out and pick up some microwave popcorn and have them over.