★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki
Cars was excellent. It's one of the most underrated Pixar films, along with A Bug's Life.
Cars 2 was bad. It's the only Pixar film I haven't liked. It focused too much on an absurd spy plot & not enough on what I loved about Cars: racing.
And now we reach Cars 3, which is not as great as Cars, but a great deal better than Cars 2.
Like Cars & unlike Cars 2, Cars 3 focuses on Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), the famous race car. Now the winner of seven Piston Cup, he has become a legend in the sport. But his age has began to show as many of his veteran racing friends are replaced by younger, high-tech racers, especially Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer), the arrogant face of the young generation of racers, with speeds over 200 mph. As Storm wins more & more races, Lightning tries his hardest to show he still has some life left in him, but an absolutely awful crash, maybe even the most destructive in the Cars franchise, leaves him absolutely incapacitated.
Four months pass. As Lightning recovers back in Radiator Springs, he tells his best friend, Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) & his girlfriend, Sally (voiced by Bonnie Hunt) that he doesn't want to end up like his mentor, Doc Hudson (posthumously voiced by Paul Newman, using archived recordings), who was forced to retire after his horrific crash in 1954. He wants to go out on his own terms.
He tries to get back to training, but the owners of Lightning's racing team have sold the team to Sterling (voiced by Nathan Fillion), an avid fan of Lightning. After many failed attemps to train using new state-of-the-art technology, Sterling takes Lightning off of the team, & is asked to sell his brand through product endorsements. Lightning adamantly refuses, & makes a deal stating that if Lightning doesn't win the first race of the year, he'll retire, to which Sterling agrees.
Lightning is then sent to train with Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo), a trainer who aspires to be a racer, but felt insecure. Although they don't get along at first, they develop a good companionship. Even more help is given by Smokey (voiced by Chris Cooper), Doc's former mechanic & crew chief. Together, everyone tries to help Lightning make his way back onto the track & onto the road to victory.
The voice acting, as always in a Pixar film, is top-notch, especially from Chris Cooper, whose voice gives off such a powerful & commanding vibe.
The direction from Brian Fee, however, is underwhelming, & the fact that this is his first time directing a film definitely shows in some of the flaws here.
The screenplay by Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson, Mike Rich, Brian Fee, Ben Queen, Eyal Podell & Jonathan E. Stewart is good; although the plot & narrative aren't the best, considering Lightning becomes somewhat arrogant again, the script is pretty good.
The animation, as it always is in a Pixar film, is excellent, & it is what saves the film.
Randy Newman's score is amazing as well, & although it isn't his best (that honor goes to his score for the 1998 classic Pleasantville, which is one of the best film scores of all time), it's definitely great.
Although Cars 3 could've been done better in the hands of a better Pixar director, it's definitely an improvement over its predecessor, & shows that it still has some gas left in the tank.
Cars 3 was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Monday, June 26, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 109 minutes, & it is rated G.