Film: “Cars 3”; Director: Brian Fee; Cast: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Armie Hammer, Bonnie Hunt Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion, Tony Shalhoub, Lea DeLaria, Paul Dooley, Kerry Washington, Guido Quaroni, Larry, Cheech Marin, Jenifer Lewis, John Ratzenberger, Paul Newman; Rating: ***1/2
This third edition of the franchise, from Pixar, which first appeared in 2006 is comparatively better than its predecessor released in 2011. While the scope and spectacle of “Cars 2” made it feel impersonal and hollow, “Cars 3” is a considerably more focused affair.
The film returns with its hotshot hero, Owen Wilson’s Lightning McQueen, who is now ageing. In the last race of the season, frazzled by a cocky pack of young racers, led by a jet-black, pompous car named Jackson Storm voiced by Armie Hammer. Lightning drives recklessly resulting in a devastating crash. Now, with his racing future in question, he vows to make a comeback. His struggle to stay competitive on the racetrack, forms the crux of the tale.
Co-written by Director Brian Fee, the film does not deliver anything that feels fresh, revitalizing or progressive either in its story or its presentation.
Nevertheless, despite its lack of innovative concept and ideas, it is actually quite enjoyable, a sturdy coming-of-age story that culminates in an unexpectedly poignant, exhilarating final race to the finish line.
What works for the film is that the tale is relatable, down-to-earth story of empathy and acceptance that actually drives home some complex messages and motivational talks through its layered plot. The mentorship subplot tackles the race/gender oppression and other real-world issues of privilege and discrimination, in a subtle way.
The ace actors, who have lent their voices deserve a lot of credit for making this largely formulaic story feel engaging and alive, from moment to moment. Lightning’s listless and lost attitude is perfectly counterbalanced by Cristela Alonzo who voices Cruz Ramirez – his trainer cum mentee. There is a certain bounce in her tone revealing optimism and energy, that makes the drab portion pulsate.
Visually the film isn’t quite impressive. The placid American setting is scenic no doubt, but it mirrors the gloomy tone of the story so closely that the various brown and grey locales, during the mid-section of the narrative, come across as a bit too drab. However, there are several standout moments of visual flair, like Lightning literally and symbolically shedding his skin to reveal his true self, a training montage on a beach that boasts of so many feats and a thrilling demolition race, in the film’s otherwise sleepy mid-section. The climax too has an astounding action sequence that makes you cheer aloud.
Overall, “Cars 3” isn’t outstanding or revolutionary or even for that matter, striking. But it is nevertheless a delightful film.