SHORT TAKE: Cars 3 is a massive improvement over Cars 2 and just as much fun but with an arguably better story than even the original Cars. Get the kids to take Dad for Father's Day.
Cars was a clever remake of an old Michael J Fox movie called Doc Hollywood, about a hot shot doctor with dreams of getting rich out in California as a plastic surgeon to the stars. He crashes in a small rural burb and the judge sentences him to assisting around town where he learns that flashier and faster isn’t always better. It’s a very funny and charmingly whimsical movie, well worth your time. And Cars pretty much told the same story.
Toy Story made animated cinematic history by managing to create sequels arguably equal to or even better than the first. The secret to Toy Story's success: the plot. The writers didn't stagnate the characters or rehash the same conflicts, like some poorly written sitcom. Instead, the Toy Story franchise creators smartly chose to foster the development and maturation of the characters, extolling virtues like humility and self sacrifice along the way.
I am delighted to say that Cars 3 follows in Toy Story’s footsteps and not its own. Cars was a cute but forgettable knock off of a light rom com MJ Fox vehicle. Cars 2 was disappointing and somewhat inane. Cars 3 brings back everything that made the original Cars movie fun for the kids and satisfying for the adults and MORE, contributing an intelligent script which is silly enough for the kiddies but thoughtful enough to keep the parents interested.
Much like how Mary Poppins was really an advisory tale for fathers who were lured into watching by bringing the kids, Cars 3 is a wonderful story about the importance of fatherly role models as well as a cautionary tale for anyone who can appreciate that old Bruce Springsteen song “Glory Days” which will “pass you by…in the wink of a young girl’s eye”. As a matter of fact this song is featured as a remix during the movie. What happens when you’ve reached and passed your peak in whatever you do and you see young hot rods in your rearview mirror closing in on your tailpipe? If you live long enough you can’t control aging (that may sound dumb but it’s even dumber watching the botox shot and plastic surgery set try), but you CAN control your response to that inevitable event and your character will determine what that response will be.
I was charmed by the writers’ thoughtful development of Lightning McQueen, as well as the virtues of honest self-assessment, altruism, and courage included in the story.
I highly recommend the kids go and take the parents, especially the dads, this Father’s Day weekend.
Meanwhile meet some of the actors who artfully and respectfully bring life to a bunch of anthropomorphized transport vehicles:
Owen (Marley & Me, and the Night at the Museum franchise) Wilson is Lightning McQueen whose laid back snarkiness from Cars has been polished to a down home self-confidence in Cars 3.
]Larry the Cable Guy is Mater….who I love. (And who provides the only truly funny line in Cars 2 “Do not try the free pistachio ice cream! It done turn!!!!” Oh no! Now you’ll have to see the goofy Cars 2 to find out what that line means.) Mater is Mater, the adorably clueless and staunchly loyal best friend of McQueen.
Armie (Lone Ranger) Hammer is Storm, McQueen’s new main rival and representative of the up and coming generation of gizmo heavy competitors.
The duo of Ray and (the late) Tom Magliozzi – the stars of Car Talk aka Click and Clack aka The Tappett Brothers – do the voices of Dusty and Rusty – old friends and previous sponsors of McQueen’s, who do a cute and funny rendition of themselves.
There are also two bits of lagniappe: a charming little short called LOU to warm up the audience about a playground bully who gets his cumupance in a lovely way, and a throw away Easter Egg at the tip end of Cars 3's credits featuring Mater with which I wish they had done more. This last is about my only big complaint about Cars 3.
All in all it was a great show and about 100 laps’ length better than its immediate predecessor. Bring the Dads to go see Cars 3 for Father’s Day. The kids will enjoy it too.