Cars 3: Third Time’s the Charm?

NOTE: Spoiler-Free Review

As a big Pixar fan, I count any movie that they produce as a must-watch film. Even Cars 3, the last installment of an underwhelming trilogy. Coming in, I was expecting visually stunning and entertaining racing scenes and not much else. I wasn’t blown away by the movie, but I enjoyed the movie and would call Cars 3 the best movie of the Cars trilogy.

Following the dumpster fire that was Cars 2, race car Lightning McQueen is back in the states on the race track, where he belongs (not in a spy movie). A new generation of more efficient race cars and his own disappointing performances back the older McQueen against the wall, with the idea of retirement becoming a very real possibility. Instead of hanging up the Goodyears, McQueen defiantly returns and seeks to find an edge on the cars, including rookie phenom Jackson Storm. His unrelenting efforts to return to top form are the basis of the plot, but secondary storylines also add intrigue to a plot deeper than any of the previous installments.

The original Cars movie had an A+ message and was a supreme moneymaker, but it was never a rewatchable movie for me because McQueen, as a cocky rookie racer, was so hard to connect with and cheer for. That’s what Cars 3 does best- its development of Lightning McQueen as a character that the audience wants to win and is relatable. The character arcs for secondary characters, such as trainer Cruz Ramirez, are excellent and gave depth to the film. With any Pixar movie, stellar animation is a given, but the racing scenes in the beach stadium are spectacular aesthetically.

Not to say that Cars 3 is on the upper echelon of Pixar movies, or even in the top ten. Cars 3’s flaws are many and make me wonder if the movie lived up to director John Lasseter’s sky high expectations. The greatest problem with Cars 3 is a cluttered plot that doesn’t flow linearly. The beginning racing scenes didn’t rev me up like the beginning of the original movie, but instead left me with questions and did a lot more showing than telling. Throughout the movie, there are scenes that stray from the central story and don’t add much. Simplifying the storyline would’ve gone a long way.

I also want to touch on the short film Lou that premiered before the movie. Without too many spoilers, the short deals with attempts by lost and found items to prevent a playground bully from getting his way. This short definitely ranks among my favorites and was entertaining with its visually appeasing and comical animation and mic drop moment at the end.

Cars 3 wasn’t great, but it didn’t spit on the Pixar name, either. Engaging characters, top-notch animation and a perfect ending give the final movie of the Cars trilogy an edge up on the others.

Pixar Rank: 12

Riker Scale Rating (out of 100): 78

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