Cars 3 is a visually stunning, amiable film about a mid-life crisis. Lightning McQueen, the legendary red racing car voiced by Owen Wilson, has to come to grips with the fact that the racing world is changing, that younger, faster racers are beating him at his own game. Basically, Lightning is an athlete facing his own mortality. Aging is hard on everyone – including anthropomorphic cars - but slowly, Lightning learns to get his mojo back.
The scenario is predictable and the film takes too long to get where it’s going – which is intriguing given that there were 7 writers involved. This includes the director Brian Fee, who is a veteran Pixar storyboard artist. The interminable racing sequences are exhausting – though that’s exactly what you sign up for when you go into a film named Cars.
A sense of sameness seeps in but just when you start to get restless, director Brian Fee tilts the narrative. We get invested in Lightning’s trainer, a girl named Cruz, who is described as the maestro of motivation. As it turns out, she’s much, much more. Her relationship with Lightning anchors the film and gives the climax energy and emotion.
The Cars franchise has traditionally been seen as B-grade Pixar. And it’s true that these films can’t match the originality and inventiveness of Inside Out or Wall-E or the Toy Story movies. These vehicles have personalities and even expressions but I found it hard to get emotionally invested in a world entirely populated by cars. Beyond a point, it still feels like a franchise designed to move merchandise. Paradoxically Cars 3 has adult themes but it is one of those rare Pixar films that is more likely to be enjoyed by children. If you have little kids, give it a shot.