Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) returns for the third installment in the franchise with him now the old-timer threatened by a new rookie on the Piston Cup circuit, Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer). In his quest to find the speed he needs he revisits the life of his old mentor Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) accompanied by his new trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo).
Cars, for me, has always been the weakest Pixar offerings and unfortunately despite some nice touches and phenomenal looking animation this is no different.
Flipping the story from the first film is one of those touches, it is nice to see the themes brought full circle from McQueen being the rookie coming through the field to the veteran racer. But it does not really give the new rookie any screen time to be more than just a rude annoyance given that he disappears for the entire middle section of the film. Then we move on to McQueen’s new trainer Cruz, who gets a few establishing scenes and a crazy demolition derby before we move to Doc Hudson’s home town. Here we are treated to a bar scene where a band sings a Bruce Springsteen song (nice touch) and an underlining of Doc’s name being Hud, because of course he is voiced by Paul Newman who played Hud (sledgehammer subtle). This, like in the first film is where we have the moral centre of the film. Again, the echoing of the original is a nice touch and having Newman’s Hud pop up for flashbacks is great, although I am not sure about the moral standpoint. Newman died 9 years ago and all of his lines are cuttings from the original film. The ending will be a crushing disappointment to any adult watching as well, not because of how it ends, but because of the way we get to that moment.
But for all the underwhelming nature of the film, the moment the final race ended prompted my 6-year-old son to utter “Yes!” under his breath and that just proves that the target audience will be thrilled by what they see. It is just that unlike Toy Story, Up, Finding Nemo or the many other Pixar offerings out there, the adults in the room might just be thinking “finally!”