Movie Review: Cars 3 Is a Smooth Ride Because It Runs on Cruise Control | Arts
Arts
INDY Week's arts blog

Archives | RSS | Follow on

Friday, June 16, 2017

Movie Review: Cars 3 Is a Smooth Ride Because It Runs on Cruise Control

Posted by Google on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 10:05 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF WALT DISNEY STUDIOS
  • photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios
Cars 3
★★★
Now playing


The most perplexing part of Pixar’s Cars universe is that while anthropomorphized automobiles are the sole living creatures, they clearly inhabit a world that’s either parallel or subsequent to our own. It’s full of landmarks we know, from Route 66 to the Eiffel Tower. Cities exist and crops are grown, all for no discernible reason. The American flag even appears at one point. Recently, Cars creative director Jay Ward offered a wholly unofficial explanation: the franchise takes place in a near-future in which the autonomous cars we're developing now turned into something like the machines in Terminator, dispensing with their human creators while adopting their personalities and social constructs.

If so, their automotive appropriation clearly also included the cinema. Cars 3 intertwines plot elements of Rocky III and Rocky IV, minus the Cold War by proxy. Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is cruising through the Piston Cup circuit until the arrival of brash rookie Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), a next-gen racer who threatens to render McQueen and his contemporaries obsolete. First, Storm puts a character named Cal Weathers out to pasture. Then, a frantic McQueen suffers a spectacular crash trying to compete with the new speedsters. All that’s missing is Storm muttering, “If he dies, he dies.”

After a brief convalescence, McQueen's new sponsor (Nathan Fillion) offers the washed-up champ the same advanced training techniques Storm enjoys. Enter Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), a spunky new age trainer whose zeal masks a secret desire to become a racer. But McQueen really just needs to get back to basics, chiefly the tracks of yesteryear. He begins by motoring down a beach (see Rocky III), followed by some accidental Figure 8 banger racing. His training culminates with a pilgrimage to the derelict Thomasville Speedway—located somewhere in “the Carolinas”—where Doc Hudson (Paul Newman, who appears via unused audio recordings from the first film) once dazzled the crowds with his automotive exploits. McQueen seeks out the sage counsel of Smoky (Chris Cooper), Doc’s old crew chief, to shepherd him through the Big Comeback and Climactic Showdown.


Save for a predictable plot turn in the last act, Cars 3 is a smooth ride because it mainly runs on cruise control. Longtime Pixar storyboard artist Brian Fee sits in the director’s chair, and he and the film’s writers wisely jettison the far-flung narrative of Cars 2 and return to the franchise’s nostalgia-laden roots. Larry the Cable Guy is back as lovable dolt Mater, whose more limited screen time this go-round embodies the axiom that less is more. The real star, however, is the scene-stealing Alonzo, whose dynamic voice acting enlivens an otherwise plodding second half.

At the heart of Cars 3 is a rather thoughtful mortality play that fits nicely in our sports movie canon, including, yes, the Rocky oeuvre. Even if the film isn’t peak Pixar, it follows the studio’s longtime aim to age with its audience—I was a thirty-something new dad when the first Cars came out in 2006, and last week my son finished his freshman year of high school. There are lessons here about generational change. Nonetheless, this joyride feels like it's running out of gas.

Tags: , , , ,

Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Arts



Twitter Activity

Comments

The Carolina, the Varsity, now the Chelsea. These movie houses were among the reasons we moved here 25 years ago. …

by JO in CHNC on The Chelsea Theater, the Last Old-School Art Cinema Standing in Chapel Hill, Might Close at the End of the Year (Arts)

Most Read

Most Recent Comments

The Carolina, the Varsity, now the Chelsea. These movie houses were among the reasons we moved here 25 years ago. …

by JO in CHNC on The Chelsea Theater, the Last Old-School Art Cinema Standing in Chapel Hill, Might Close at the End of the Year (Arts)

The Chelsea Theatre has to be saved! Chapel Hill and the Triangle would be greatly diminished without it. Other theatres, …

by Jonathan H on The Chelsea Theater, the Last Old-School Art Cinema Standing in Chapel Hill, Might Close at the End of the Year (Arts)

...as did I, Ms. Margolis -- in a very small handful of moments over a two and a half hour …

by Byron Woods, INDY Theater and Dance Critic on Theater Review: The South Is Hard to Hear in the Opera Version of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain (Arts)

I certainly heard the accents.

by Elizabeth A Margolis on Theater Review: The South Is Hard to Hear in the Opera Version of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain (Arts)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation