Lightning McQueen may be ageing, but there’s life in Pixar yet as this high-octane animation revs its way into cinemas in a last ditch attempt at a Cars comeback. With more gas in the tank than the second instalment, and going back to the racetrack roots of the first, this is an uplifting and family-friendly movie that successfully gets the franchise back on course.
The golden boy of the racing circuit, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) returns to the track a little rusty, with his confidence knocked by a new generation of high-tech racers led by new rival, Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer). Unable to reach the high speeds of his new competition, but determined not to settle for second best, a rushed and scrappy pit-stop mid-race leads to a potentially career-ending crash for our original rookie, who is forced to face up to the prospect of retirement. No longer the fresh young talent he used to be, at the advice of his new sponsor, Sterling (Nathan Fillon), he’s forced to undergo a modern training regime under the watch of bubbly head trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo).
“The racing world is changing”, we’re told, and it’s up to Lightning McQueen to adapt to the new technological advances and training methods that are causing him to fall short. There’s a gentle, witty nod here to the present evolving techniques and modern regimen that is changing the name of sport, as we see our hero, alongside Cruz, experiment with self-help methods, virtual reality training and computer simulation to boost performance. But in the end, it’s good old fashioned heart that trumps all, as McQueen convinces Cruz to get their “tyres dirty” and go back to basics in a last ditch attempt to further his legacy in the memory of his old mentor Doc Hudson (Paul Newman). Along the way there are some fun sequences, including a laugh-out-loud “crazy eight” tournament at red-neck race track Thunder Hollow, and a Fireball Beach speed trial that sees Cruz charmingly go outside of her comfort zone to experience “real” racing.
In a reversal of roles, we see our protagonist put his ego aside and show his partner what it is to be a real racer – and it’s here, in an understated way, that Cars 3 makes a poignant case against sexism and leaves an important message for a young audience. Told by her elders time and time again “you’re not a racer, you’re a trainer”, Cruz had resigned herself to a path that had been paved for her by a traditionally male dominated industry; but with a little help and teamwork from McQueen, she reaches her full potential and challenges old rules and new techniques for self-belief and determination, in a heartwarming climax to the film.
Cars 3 is entertaining and visually wonderful, laced with family-friendly messages expected from the Pixar studio. While slow to get into gear, with lengthy dialogue holding up the action at times, there’s still plenty of witty adventure to keep the kids entertained this summer.
Cars 3 is released nationwide on 14th July 2017.
Watch the trailer for Cars 3 here: