Cars 3 takes the loved four-wheeled franchise back to its racing roots. This time, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is the older racer looking for a new edge against the next generation. The rookies are all highly trained using the newest technology, statistical analysis and fancy simulators. After a devastating wreck in the first act, McQueen wants to make a comeback. And if he doesn’t, he’ll be forced into retirement.
When McQueen meets his new trainer, Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), that phrase about old dogs and new tricks comes to mind. It’s fun to watch Cruz, a fan of McQueen’s since she was a child, work with him and try to ease him into new exercises, including hanging him upside down and making him name his tires. But McQueen needs to get his wheels dirty and soon he and Cruz set out across the American south to find the car who taught his mentor, Doc Hudson.
This is where McQueen and Cruz get back to the heart and roots of racing. They visit little southern towns where cars race on dirt tracks and make new friends that teach them the way Doc was taught. There’s even a bit calling back to the old moonshine runners that inspired NASCAR.
My favorite scene, and my son’s too, is when McQueen and Cruz accidentally enter a demolition derby. Not wanting to ruin his reputation, McQueen is in disguise. The track is a muddy figure eight, with banged up, souped up cars aiming straight for them. The car who steals the scene is Miss Fritter, an old school bus with flame-exhaust longhorns. She’s the town’s favorite and what she’s done with her stop sign made my kid yell, “Whoa!”
While all of the old fan favorites from the original film make an appearance most of those from the second film do not. In fact, the film does not acknowledge the events of 2 at all, and that’s just fine by me. Perhaps the creators agree that it was just a big mess.
However, I believe they more than make up for the bumbling sequel in 3. Under the guise of stock car racing, the storytellers have once again woven a wonderful story about personal growth, much like the original. The film is driven by McQueen’s drive and given a new heart with the introduction of Cruz. The story of mentor/mentee and how those relationships evolve over time is wonderfully done in a perfectly Pixar way. Cruz’s backstory is poignant and rings true for anyone who has dreamed, but been too intimidated to go for it.
As many know, Pixar’s Cars films are a favorite of one adorable demographic: boys between the ages of 2 and 6. So taking my three year old son to see Cars 3 was an extra special experience. Watching the newest Cars film next to my wiggling, energetic kid, with him giggling at Mater’s antics whispering his race car sounds was a nearly perfect experience. I highly recommend sharing this one with the little ones.
“You’ll never be the racer you once were. You can’t turn back the clock, kid, but you can wind it up, again.”