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'Cars 3' in the Running for First Place in Summer Blockbusters

Jun. 20, 2017
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Lightning McQueen looks down for the count as Cars 3 begins. Old number 95 slumps into depression when he and his generation of racecars are pushed off the track by a new breed of high-performance contenders. The leader of the new pack, Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer), trains on a digital simulator rather than a dirt track, and has mastered the calculus of tire pressure and weight distribution.   

Jackson has largely eliminated the human dimension from the sport of racing—if one can discuss humanity in an animated tale about anthropomorphic motor vehicles. Will the faltering Lightning (Owen Wilson) make a comeback and retake the cup?

Cars 3

Owen Wilson

Armie Hammer

Directed by Brian Fee

Rated G

Pixar has been the groundbreaker in animation not only for its technological breakthroughs in computer animation, but also for its sophisticated screenplays. Some Pixar fans have dismissed the original Cars and its sequels as the least challenging of the studio’s sequence of gently thought-provoking animated features. Of necessity, many scenes throughout the Cars franchise are fast-moving kinetic spectacles, yet the films always slow down to take measure of sportsmanship, the cost of pursuing victory, the distracting glare of celebrity media and the value of mentorship. 

In Cars 3, Lightning communes in memory with his mentor, Doc Hudson (the late Paul Newman, his voice salvaged from outtakes), and is bucked up by his girlfriend, Sally (Bonnie Hunt), the vehicular analogue to the can-do women that populate Pixar films. He is also supported by the unswerving loyalty of his friends, especially Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), Rusty (Tom Magliozzi) and Dusty (Ray Magliozzi). The story’s moral concerns the arrogant brashness of youth when it despises the experience of age, and the ability—even the necessity—of elders to adapt to changing times. Pixar also engages female empowerment through a new character, Lightning’s trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), who needs the confidence to pursue her dream of championship racing.

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