Overview: The next generation of rookie race cars threaten Lightning McQueen’s reign as the Piston Cup champion and McQueen’s’ comrades as they are pressured to retire; Rated G; 109 minutes; 2017.

What Goes Around Comes Around: Like many trilogies, Cars 3 should’ve maybe stopped at Cars 2 and spared an unnecessary filler movie. Luckily, the original Cars cast has returned for possibly the last installment. Following successful championship wins year-after-year, a damaging crash on the track initiates a period of contemplation for Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson). Cars 3 exhibits a recursive theme throughout the movie, echoing Doc Hudson’s career crash, mentorship, and friendship. Pixar’s latest tells the same story previously told in Cars, sans Americana nostalgia, and banking on low-octane entertainment with a few fresh faces.

Gear Jams: Director Brian Fee and crew grasp at tattered checkered flags in an attempt to bring McQueen’s career full circle, but in the process, lost sight of its own strength. As McQueen sought new methods to overcome the statistically more sound rookies, he inadvertently transformed trainee to trainer with the energetic Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo). Cruz’s introduction onto the racetrack adds another dimension on the racer demographic front, adding representation for a minority woman.

Other areas remain flat. Amidst frustration in his lack of progress, McQueen confronts Cruz as not being a real racer. In response, Cruz’s defiant monologue comes up short on emotional pull. Cruz’s character displays little breadth, and opportunities to form connections with her were far too few. Her position in McQueen’s drag proved detrimental to her overall development. Although flashback sequences have become a go-to method (to the point of redundancy), these sequences are effective in showing how her earlier experiences contributed to her current state and to gradually shift the focus from McQueen to Cruz.

The Tires of Change: True to the Pixar formula, as a movie primarily directed at children, Cars 3 has a message, and it’s one that seeks to the challenge of adapting, in this case to technological change. By fostering acceptance and understanding of change, a receptive and responsive environment supports innovation. Cruz’s underdog win across the finish line utilizes skills from various disciplines, old tricks used in new,  admirable ways. The win itself required at least an additional moment to build uncertainly. However touching it was to witness Cruz putting her newfound skills to use, her win downplays the importance of a car’s structural design. A more appropriate win, while still letting dreamers dream, includes a body upgrade in conjunction with her unconventional racing style to adequately take on the next gen rookies. The ending didn’t allude to a fourth installment and that fact may play a part on Cruz’s win based on wit and heart. It’s the ending of a trilogy wherein the torch was haphazardly passed because the Cars’ story ends with Cruz.

Final Thoughts: While fulfilling in addressing unanswered questions about McQueen’s career, Cars 3 stalls as it rounds the last turn in the Cars franchise and can’t quite let go its golden boy, ka-chow!

Grade: C-

Featured Image: Pixar