First Word: The third installment in this series about anthropomorphic automobiles is better than the forced stupidity of Cars 2, but it still lags far behind the animated magic of most of Pixar’s work.
Synopsis: The new movie brings the focus back on Piston Cup champ Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson). McQueen is on top of the world, winning races and having a good time with his fellow veteran cars. But then a new high-tech generation of race cars takes over, led by the cool rookie Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer) — and McQueen wonders if it’s time to retire. The ghost of his mentor, Doc Hudson aka The Hudson Hornet, still prods McQueen, making him determined to end his racing career on his own terms. But McQueen finds a bump in that road when his old sponsors, the Rusteze brothers, announce they’ve sold the company. (For adults, it’s a tad unsettling that the movie uses recycled voice recordings from two deceased performers: Paul Newman as Doc Hudson and former “Car Talk” co-host Tom Magliozzi as Rusty Rusteze. Voice actor Lloyd Sherr has taken over the late George Carlin’s role as the hippie microbus Fillmore.) 7/10
Animation: With Pixar the animation is always phenomenal and Cars 3 is no exception. Seemingly blending bright color, with subtle movements there is a reason Pixar is the gold standard when it comes to animation. 9/10
Characterization: Lightning is by far a better lead character than Mater (Cars 2). However, where Cars 3 struggles is with stand out characters. There’s a fair amount of dead air in Cars 3 from the antics of McQueen’s buck-toothed pal Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) and a stats-spouting racing expert (voiced by Kerry Washington). Also, as mentioned before, utilizing recordings from deceased actors and performers was also a bit disconcerting. However there were some good characters added that brought a lot to the film such as Cruz Ramirez and Smokey. 6.5/10
Conclusion: Cars has never been Pixar’s strongest franchise. Like the first Cars, which rolled through small-town America along Route 66, Cars 3 is brimming with nostalgia for some mythic golden era of automotive excellence. Pixar’s artists bring that world to life with incredible detail, as always, but it feels oddly juxtaposed against cartoonish car characters. Cars 3 is a good film however not a great one, but there is enough gas in the tank, barely to give McQueen one last trip to the winners circle.
Final Score: 7.5/10