UK Release Date: 14th July 2017
Runtime: 109 minutes
Director: Brian Fee
Writer: Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson, Mike Rich
Starring: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Armie Hammer, Nathan Fillion, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Chris Cooper
Synopsis: Lightning McQueen finds his dominance on the track challenged by a new generation of high-tech racing cars, forcing him to train hard in an attempt to get back into contention.
The Cars films are pretty much universally accepted as the creative nadir of the Pixar canon. In a studio lauded for its originality and inventive approach to animated cinema, they stand out as being derivative, dull and designed solely to flog lunchboxes, key rings and cool remote-controlled cars. Cars 3 is as defiantly unimaginative as any film that has been released this year, clinging to the sports movie template like a security blanket as it limps along like a clapped-out old banger. At times, it’s hard to believe this movie came from the same people who made the masterful Inside Out.
Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) finds his dominance of the racing world challenged when a new breed of racer, led by Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), arrives and makes the tactics of the traditional cars look old and tired. After some soul-searching back home with Sally (Bonnie Hunt), Lightning signs with a new company led by Sterling (Nathan Fillion) and begins to train himself in the high-tech ways of the new racers. With the help of trainer and wannabe racer Cruz (Cristela Alonzo) and old veteran Smokey (Chris Cooper), Lightning looks to find a balance between old and new that can help him beat Storm.
It’s tough to even find the words to describe how tedious parts of Cars 3 are. It’s like watching CGI paint dry for almost two, bloated hours of corporate-mandated dullness. The plot has absolutely no imagination, cycling through the sport movie tropes of arrogance leading to defeat, the veteran struggling to keep up with young upstarts and the ambitious youngster kept away from achieving her dream. The film stumbles back into the montage trope so often that the entire thing often feels like one big training montage.
Owen Wilson is simply going through the motions in the lead role, delivering his twinkly charisma as much as he can through the bland facade of the character. Armie Hammer gets literally nothing to do in what could have been an interesting villainous role and Nathan Fillion is given no ability to make an impact as a sleazy businessman. The only new character afforded any sort of narrative or character arc is Cristela Alonzo, who deserves credit for the genuine energy she brings to the role of Cruz, but the film never encourages you to care for as much as you need to in order for the film to work.
There is, as you’d expect with Pixar, some visually impressive stuff in Cars 3, when it’s not just going through as many clichés as it possibly can. In the wake of The Good Dinosaur, the studio is now remarkable in its ability to create almost photorealistic landscapes and water, but there’s certainly a problem when that is the most noteworthy thing about a film. Even the race sequences, which were hinted at having a darker edge in the bizarre original teaser trailer for the movie, feel a little flat and unimpressive. In those scenes, it just feels like paint-by-numbers.
Pixar is, in many ways, a victim of its own high standards when films like Cars 3 come around. For most animation studios, the occasional misstep like this could be quickly swept away under the carpet and forgotten, without inflicting any reputational damage. For Pixar, though, a creative flop the size of Cars 3 leaves an enormous blot on an otherwise exemplary copybook of invention, wit and charm. I can comfortably say I have never been this bored watching a Pixar movie before.
Pop or Poop?
After the slight disappointment of Finding Dory last year, Pixar has hit rock bottom with Cars 3, which is a dismal and unentertaining animated movie. The performances are lacking in enthusiasm, the plot is like any other sports movie and, other than the occasional glimmer of visual finesse, it ain’t much to look at either. This never gets out of first gear.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.