Cars 3 (2017 film)

Can Kids Really Relate to ‘Cars 3’?

What child can understand losing professional colleagues after a long career?
Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Disney/Pixar’s Cars 3.]

Cars 3 is par for the course for Pixar, in the sense that it talks past child viewers in order to speak to life experiences and complex emotions that the creators of inferior animated movies simply do not have the consideration or ingenuity to address. Movies like Up, Toy Story 3 and Inside Out do not, in that sense, consider the lives that child viewers actually lead. In these films, child viewers are encouraged to appreciate a world that they will soon grow into. There is, in other words, an adult quality to these stories even if they are essentially children’s stories at hearts.

With that in mind: What are kids supposed to make of Cars 3, a well-meaning but misconceived sports/action-comedy that concludes that passing the baton, and gracefully sharing a stage with young up-and-comers, is just as satisfying as enjoying your day in the sun? What children see themselves in talking race car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), an amiable has-been who is now forced to consider retirement? Can children relate, beyond a basic “sharing is caring” take-away, to a story about an aging professional who has to make room for younger competitors? Why, in other words, is an anthropomorphized car teaching kids that someday, they too will have to find satisfaction in doing something other than what they love? Is the target audience for Cars 3 really that old at heart?

McQueen is, for much of Cars 3, a sympathetic hothead. He grumbles and mutters his way through various encounters that remind him that he isn’t the fastest professional race car on the track anymore. He’s been eclipsed by up-and-comer Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer), a new model that was built and trained to go faster. Storm is Ivan Drago to McQueen’s Rocky, a dynamic that child viewers are made to understand thanks to Storm’s insensitive behavior. He’s callous while McQueen is soft-spoken, and neurotically obsessed with going back to his roots, getting into the zone and psyching out his competitors (though always in a friendly way).

Here’s where a kid viewer probably can’t relate to McQueen’s story: Storm is so good that McQueen watches helplessly as his colleagues are all essentially forced into retirement. They can’t compete with this young, disrespectful whipper-snapper, and therefore almost…

Get in Gear with Our Cars Characters Gallery

Meet the new Cars characters in our Cars characters gallery guide!
Get in gear for this Friday’s Cars 3 with our Cars characters guide!

DisneyPixar‘s Cars 3 is zooming into theaters this Friday, June 16. Before the franchise returns, we’re heading back to the film’s automotive world to take a look at some of the key Cars characters. In the gallery viewer below, you can take a look at some returning favorites like Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), young race trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), #95’s rival Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) and race analyst Natalie Certain (Kerry Washington). The film is directed by Brian Fee, who was a storyboard artist for Cars and Cars 2.

Disney•Pixar‘s Cars 3 begins when,…

Film Review: ‘Cars 3’

Cars 3

Lightning McQueen, now facing the perils of being past his prime, returns in a touching sequel that gets the series back on track.

Cars,” back in 2006, was the first Pixar movie that was far more beloved by audiences than critics. That meant something, since Pixar had long been a critical darling. The movie struck many reviewers as being less heady and artful, more insistently conventional, than the “Toy Story” films or “Finding Nemo.” And after it was followed up by the critically revered triple whammy of “Ratatouille,” “WALL-E,” and “Up,” “Cars” languished, in reputation, as a “lesser” Pixar movie. Yet it found a deep place in the hearts of kids (and in many adult kids too), and the critics, in my view, were always too down on its shiny and sentimental off-the-beaten-track-of-Americana appeal.

It was clear that the co-director of “Cars,” the founding Pixar guru John Lasseter, felt close to the film and even protective of it, so five years later, when he made “Cars 2,” you can sort of understand why he shot the works. The sequel, with its globe-trotting chases and Rube-Goldberg-on-STP narrative that wound up spinning, almost deliberately, out of control, was a true Pixar oddball: a piece of candy-colored virtuosity that sent cars flying off in every direction, to the point that you could scarcely keep track of them. It was one of the most visually astonishing films in the Pixar canon and, at the same time, one of the most impersonal. Lasseter had upped the ante on “Cars” by making a work of technological pop art that it was almost impossible to care about. The movie was a commercial success, yet it seemed to leave the legacy of Lightning McQueen lying in the dust of eye-tickling dazzle.

Cars 3,” though, pointedly swings the pendulum back. Lasseter, with “Cars 2,” may have made the movie he wanted to make, but as Pixar’s chief creative officer, he surely registered the mixed reaction to it, and “Cars 3” feels like it has been conceived and directed, with scrupulous love and affection (and a bit of baseline corporate calculation), “for the fans.” It’s the first “Cars” film that Lasseter has handed off to one of his trainee/protégés — Brian Fee, who has never directed a feature before. Fee honed his chops as a storyboard artist, working on “Ratatouille” and the two previous “Cars” films, and what he’s come up with is an exceedingly sweet and polished fable that unfolds with a kid-friendly, by-the-book emotional directness. The CGI animation has a detailed lush clarity highly reminiscent of “Ratatouille,” and the picture moves at such an amiable pace that even the drawling, dawdling pick-up-truck doofus Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) doesn’t slow it down.

Lightning McQueen, voiced by