Ah, yes, the Cars franchise: the coconut-filled chocolates of the Pixar candy smorgasbord. “Hey,” I’m being told right now, somewhere, “my kid really likes coconut.” Well, that’s great, but I don’t. While watching the first Cars film, I was overcome with the sense of, “I’m confused, why isn’t this as good as the Toy Story movies?” The second tripled down on the voice-acting skills of Larry the Cable Guy, sending the Cars characters on an international spy mission.
With Cars 3, thankfully, the main character is Lightning McQueen again, voiced by Owen Wilson who really is great in the part. And it’s hard to ignore the parallels between Cars 3 and Rocky III, of all things (more on that in a bit). But this does feel like a movie aimed at a slightly older audience than the previous two Cars movies – which makes sense since a seven-year-old when the first Cars came out would now be 18. (It’s hard to believe the first Cars is now 11 years old.) And to finish off my coconut chocolate analogy that I already regret making, Cars 3 is filled with enough other ingredients that I actually found this one enjoyable. (Also, I really like Rocky III.)
When Cars 3 starts, Lightning McQueen is still winning a lot of races in this strange Cars universe in which automobiles are sentient creatures. Unfortunately for McQueen, a new, sleek, more powerful line of car – specifically, Jackson Storm, voiced in “full prick mode” by Armie Hammer – has been introduced to racing and McQueen can no longer compete with the upgraded cars.
This is when McQueen starts seeing visions of his old trainer, Doc Hudson, using previously unused recordings of the late Paul Newman. Yes, it’s a little weird. Also, when anything like this is attempted, the dialogue doesn’t always match up because the story has to be advanced, but the leftover Newman audio is limited. So what’s left are exchanges in which Newman is answering Lightning McQueen’s questions in vague ways that didn’t always make sense, then just starts laughing.