Movie Review: Cars 3 - sequel eventually finds its mojo
Cars 3 (G, 109 mins) Directed by Brian Fee ★★½
Pixar studios have turned out some of my favourite films of all time.
The Toy Story trilogy, Inside Out, WALL–E and a handful of others have been perfectly written, audaciously well-told and timeless movies. It's a standard line of film-festival programmers that we need to look to Japan and Korea for truly beautiful and profound work coming out of animator's paintbrushes and hard-drives, but I truly have always preferred Pixar – at their best – to almost anything I've ever seen from Studio Ghibli.
But, Pixar at their best and Pixar at their worst are two very different animals. And for every Up and Finding Nemo there is a Good Dinosaur or a Cars 2 to stink the place up.
Cars 2 took everything that worked about the first – okayish – installment and threw it away in a reeking mess about secret agents and corporate espionage. Cars 2 is also the only kids' animation I know of that shows a character being tortured.
So we shouldn't be surprised – at least not unhappily surprised – that Cars 3 doesn't mention any of the events of Cars 2 at all. The film simply doesn't exist in these character's universe at all. I wish I could say the same.
Cars 3 picks up the story of Cars a decade down the track. Champion Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is being beaten on the track by a brash new generation of hybrid super-cars. For the first time in his career, McQueen is not the fastest thing on four wheels. Taken under the wing of a new team owner and a hyper-enthusiastic personal trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), McQueen tries to rebuild his mojo.
Cars 3 unfolds in a pretty familiar fashion. There's screeds too much dialogue for the first half of the film to hold the attention of any single-digit audience members, and the racing scenes feel repetitive and padded. Only as the film hits the road, with McQueen and Ramirez accidentally suckered into a hillbilly demolition derby, does Cars 3 really deliver the visual inventiveness we might have been hoping for.
But Cars 3's last few laps do bring the film home strong.
The writer's last roll of the dice sees Cars 3 locate itself nicely within the woman-led moment a certain superhero movie is tearing up the box office with this month. Glaring at the screen in irritation and ennui as Cars 3 rounded the 60-minute mark, I finally found myself grinning, shouted on by a couple of six-year-old girls in the seats behind me who were having some sort of existential melt-down of joy at this point.
Cars 3 does just enough, late in the day, to be considered an adequate sequel to Cars. And that ending might even pave the way for a Cars 4 I wouldn't mind seeing too much at all.