In my opinion, Cars 2 was one of Pixar Animation Studios’ biggest letdowns. They were on a roll (no pun intended) with some amazing, groundbreaking films, and Cars 2 interrupted the flow with an ultimately forgettable film. The sequel didn’t perform well critically or financially, but I guess there was enough potential for the studio to continue the series of kid’s films – this time (perhaps self-referentially), about getting old and retiring.
It’s not like Pixar is scared of including dark and adult topics in their movies: Up had one of the saddest stories about lost love and regret, Wall-E depicted humanity’s devastation of Earth due to consumerism and waste, and Toy Story 3, about growing old and becoming unwanted, featured its main characters literally holding hands and accepting their fate when they couldn’t escape their descent towards a fiery doom.
But Cars movies are for children. It’s Pixar’s most youngster-aimed franchise, and its simpler stories and less adult-oriented content is what makes it unique – though flawed. Cars 3 sees the return of racing car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) as reigning champion who starts losing races to newer, more sophisticated cars. [Early on, you have to realise that thinking too hard about where these “newer models” come from, or whether their success is due to nature or nurturing, should be avoided.] He ends up paired with trainer-car Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) and in a buddy-movie road trip they get to know each other and compromise on their different points of view.
To anyone who’s seen a buddy comedy, the plot takes predictability to the extreme, but to the target audience, this probably doesn’t matter. On the other hand, I found the thematic musing on retirement and getting older (or replaced), an odd choice for a children’s movie. Despite that, Cars 3 has some nice examples of self-discovery, and embracing your skills and destiny, and realising that other people have/had dreams and goals, too.
Ultimately, I enjoyed Cars 3 more than I did the previous instalment, but it still only inspired one real laugh. It’s far from Pixar’s best work, and as a made-for-children film as opposed to Pixar’s usual made-for-families fare, it might be a little harder for adult chaperones to sit through. It’s an odd film (especially in terms of a potential theme and target audience mismatch) with plenty of fun (albeit lacking-in-soul) action setpieces, but at least it’s not forgettable.
Cars 3 is the latest film from Pixar Animation Studios. It’s directed by Brian Fee, and features the voice talents of Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, and Nathan Fillion. It’s in theaters from 15 June 2017.