Disney Pixar’s Cars franchise is back in theaters with a third movie and since our kid is a fan we even reserved tickets for a specific day in an attempt to avoid the large crowds that occur during summer break. We did not achieve our goal but all the same, Cars 3 turned out to be a pretty good time for the family despite it lacking the same emotional engagement as other Pixar films. The humor relies on a lot of old age type jokes and does not provide anything new and clever but the film might steal a couple of chuckles out of you. Cars 3 is surprisingly mature as it tackles Lightning McQueen’s aging career on the racetrack and opens the sport up to young racers. The animation has that new car sparkle fans have come to expect from Pixar and remains gorgeous. The audience is treated to a new main character, Cruz Ramirez but unfortunately, the old lovable characters receive very little interaction on screen. Cars 3 fails to cross the mark when it comes to the first movie, but it exceeds the second movie easily. Most adults will find Cars 3 to be a middle of the road Pixar movie but fans will likely appreciate the improvement over the second movie.

Quick points of review:

  • The storyline introduces new main characters but lacks interaction with old lovable characters.
  • Mature themes are explored in a digestible manner for younger audiences.
  • The movie lacks the emotional impact fans have come to expect from Pixar.
  • The animation remains to be gorgeous.
  • It’s a good family film but is still a mediocre movie.


*Spoiler Alert! If you are avoiding spoilers, do not read further. You’ve been warned.*


Plot Synopsis

Cars 3 begins with Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) giving himself a pep talk before his big race, only to be interrupted by his friend Mater (Daniel Lawrence Whitney). McQueen created friendships with other racers who mostly enjoy ragging on Cal (Kyle Petty) who races for Dinoco. As races go by over time, McQueen finds his friends are no longer competing on the track with him and instead younger faster racers are quickly crowding the track.

McQueen discovers his friend Cal has decided to retire and a younger car, Storm (Armie Hammer), teases Lightning about his age. Rumors of McQueen’s retirement are buzzing around the industry. McQueen loses a race to Storm and Lightning decides he has to do something different with his training in order to remain among the fastest cars and beat his young competitors. After wrecking himself and losing to Storm, Lightning announces his plans to his friends back in Radiator Springs and the receives a call from his sponsors at Rusteze.

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McQueen on the simulator at the Rusteze racing center.

Rusty (Tom Magliozzi) and Dusty (Ray Magliozzi) tell McQueen they have a new racing facility where Lightning can train. Lightning finds out the brothers sold Rusteze to Sterling (Nathan Fillion) who wants to help train Lightning and get him back to top racing speed. Sterling gives Lightning a tour of the training facility and introduces him to his new trainer, Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo). Ramirez eases Lightning into exercises but he is set on using the racing simulation and gets onto the simulator before Cruz thinks he is ready. Lightning is not able to beat Storm in the simulation and wrecks into the screen of the simulator.

Sterling speaks with McQueen and he has produced a lot of Lightning McQueen products to sell. Sterling insists it will make money after Lightning retires, but Lightning does not want to retire and convinces Sterling to allow him to get some training on different tracks. McQueen agrees with Sterling to win the next race or he will have to retire.

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McQueen and Cruz training on the beach.

McQueen is taken to the beach by Mack (John Ratzenberger) and Mater to help him train. Then Cruz is sent by Sterling due to their agreement that Lightning is supposed to take one person with him to assist in his training. Lightning begins to train on the beach with Cruz but Cruz does not know how to race on sand. She has to learn how to keep up with McQueen so she can track his speed. McQueen decides the training on the beach is not doing much good and they need to leave to train on an actual track.

They find a sign that points to a track called Thunder Hollow and Lightning decide they have to head there to train. Lightning signs up for the race on the track covered in mud for a disguise and Cruz insists she has to race with him so they can continue to track his speed. A water truck and a bunch of motley cars show up and Lightning realizes they’ve entered a demolition derby. Cruz and Lightning have to avoid getting crushed and wrecked by the other cars. Both make it until all the cars have been crashed out of the race but Cruz gets stuck in the mud. A bus with horns spewing fire named Miss Fritter (Lea DeLaria) starts to speed towards Cruz to crush her and Lightning gives Cruz a push out of the way causing Miss Fritter to get stuck in the mud.

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Miss Fritter

Miss Fritter is unhappy about missing a chance to crush into Cruz and goes after Lightning while he is stuck in the mud. Lightning is able to dodge the bus at the last moment and Miss Fritter goes sailing headlights first into her own billboard at the race track. The water truck accidentally hoses down Lightning and the crowd watching the race are shocked to find the muddy disguised car is Lightning McQueen. Cruz is awarded the trophy and a picture is taken and shared on the news because of Lightning being present.

While Cruz shows enthusiasm for her first earned trophy at a race, Lightning becomes upset with her and tells her she is not a real race car. He is disappointed so far with his training and takes his frustrations out on Cruz. Cruz tells Lightning she wanted to be a race car once but she gave up and just trained race cars instead. Cruz makes Mack stop and she drives home after the night until Lightning tells her to get back in because they are going to head to Doc Hudson’s old training track.

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McQueen meets Smokey and friends

Lightning and Cruz find Doc’s old track and meets his old trainer Smokey (Chris Cooper). Smokey introduces the two to some old friends of Doc’s and Lightning learns more about Doc’s past. Lightning tells Smokey he wishes he could have seen Doc happy. Smokey reassures Lightning that Doc was very happy about the time spent with Lightning. Lightning begins to train with the help of Smokey and Cruz until he’s ready for his big race day in Florida.

Lightning makes it around the first lap of the race and during his pit stop, Sterling orders Cruz to leave and get back to the race center. Cruz heads back but McQueen gets her back. Ramone (Cheech Marin) does a quick paint job of Lightening’s race number onto Cruz and she enters the race. During the race Storm tells Cruz she doesn’t really belong there but after some encouragement from McQueen, Storm races up and drifts on the back side of Storm. Storm pushes Cruz into the wall but Cruz flips over Storm like Doc and wins the race.

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Geeky Talk’s Reaction to the Movie

Cars 3 is an enjoyable watch but misses the same impact and magic fans have come to expect from Pixar. Still, the mature theme is a nice departure from the second film. The simple storyline introduces a couple of new main characters with Cruz and Smokey portrayed well by Cristela Alonzo and Chris Cooper. Smokey represents the past well for Lightning McQueen while McQueen makes way for the future represented by Cruz. Both characters take on an important role in McQueen’s story as the race car learns to accept and respect the past and discovers there is more than enough room for the young as well. McQueen guides Cruz into her new found position as a racer as Doc once did for him. Cars 3 takes a serious look at aging and avoids the nihilism of mortality while expressing a mature theme through animation easily digestible for younger audiences.

While the cast did an excellent job with their voice acting in Cars 3, the movie is missing something. The old beloved characters receive very little screen time in the animation. The movie is lacking some of its heart without Lightning’s old friends Cars fans have come to love. Fortunately, Pixar avoids mashing the former characters all together into inane moments similar to the second film but Cars 3 could have benefited with more meaningful roles with the beloved characters.

Cars 3 is a lot more enjoyable than the second movie but it never quite reaches the finish line with the first movie. It is a middle of the road watch and while the theme and new characters create some fresh fun for the franchise, it just does not carry the emotional impact fans have come to expect from Pixar. Pixar created films like Finding Dory, Inside Out, and Toy Story and Cars 3 just isn’t quite as shiny. The animation still offers enough to enjoy this summer with the family but it’s slightly disappointing after 2016 proved to be such a stellar year for the medium with films like Zootopia, Finding Dory, and Kubo and the Two Strings.

Still, Pixar’s animation throughout the movie remains gorgeous. The environments looked nearly realistic as the characters drive on through Cars 3 and even the characters themselves still have that freshly washed sparkle. The demolition derby introduced Miss Fritter played by Lea DeLaria and she is just an all around badass school bus. Overall this is a solid family movie perfect for the kids during their summer break. It’s not groundbreaking in respect to Pixar but there is enough in Cars 3 for fans of the franchise to enjoy.

Go watch Disney Pixar’s Cars 3 in theaters right now! Have you seen Cars 3? What did you think? Put your Geeky Talk in the comments below. Thanks for reading! 🙂

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