For those of you eagerly asking yourselves if you should see Cars 3 let me tell you it’s not worth it. Somehow this movie failed to be everything it was trying to be and I’ll tell you why. We start with good old Lightning McQueen in his prime, winning race after race, and having friendly rivalries with his racing buds. When suddenly a millennial- I mean Jackson Storm shows up with his high tech training methods and leaves the older cars in the dust. Soon Lightning McQueen and his peers are being replaced by more of these rookies until Lightning McQueen is the last of the oldies. During one race McQueen loses his focus and has a terrible crash. Then we time jump four months and he’s hiding out in Radiator Springs completely devoid of his will to fight. However all of his friends convince him to get back out there and his old managers tell him they have a new state of the art training facility to get him into racing shape. At the facility he meets his trainer, Cruz Ramirez, another young car whose training methods he thinks are a waste of time. Eager to prove that he is good enough to race with the likes of Storm, McQueen gets on the training simulator and breaks it making his investor decide that it would be best if McQueen retired before he damages his reputation. However McQueen strikes a deal that if he wins the next race then he is able to choose when he retires. Thus begins the journey of Cruz and McQueen and they try to make him a faster than Jackson Storm. Together they leave the facility because McQueen insists that he needs to train the old fashioned way, and head for an old racing track that McQueen’s mentor, Doc, used to race on. Oh and I forgot to mention but apparently Doc passed away before the first and second movie. Instead of a race track the two find themselves apart of a demolition derby, shenanigans ensue, and Cruz ends up winning it. After the derby McQueen and Cruz get into a fight where Cruz says that she always wanted to be a racer but she wasn’t (her model) a racing car and when she got her chance she didn’t take it because she didn’t think she could do it. Next the two travel to Doc’s home town where they meet a bunch of older racing cars and even Doc’s old mentor. Doc’s mentor begins training McQueen by racing him against Cruz, but he is never able to beat her so off they go the main race we’ve been building up too. At the race McQueen isn’t doing so so well when he finally realizes that Cruz is the answer to beating Storm. So, halfway through the race McQueen goes to the pit stop and tells the others to paint his number on Cruz and they send her out to finish the race with McQueen taking on the role of her coach. She wins the race using a trick she learned while on the road with McQueen and the win is counted as win for both of them meaning McQueen won the deal he made. Now at the end McQueen is Cruz’s coach and they do a big reveal where McQueen appears sporting Doc’s old colors.
Okay now time to get to the meat of things. I feel like this movie was trying to be touching and make it feel as if McQueen had come full circle in the series from rookie to coach. However it ran into issues because the relationship between Doc and McQueen wasn’t even mentioned in the second movie. I swear Doc’s death wasn’t even mentioned in Cars 2 or if it was it carried no emotional weight at the time. This made McQueen’s sudden reverence of Doc come as a complete surprise and it felt forced. They also paired any mention of Doc with flashbacks from the first movie as it to say “hey, remember Doc and how much McQueen cared about him”? They don’t even tell you how he died which makes you wonder, how can cars die? My other issue is that although this movie was likely targeted at children the main character is an aging car afraid of becoming irrelevant in the new and shifting world he inhabits. A lot of the humor panders to the idea that the old ways are somehow better, like comics that make jokes about kids these days not knowing what books are. Even the young car, Cruz, that the younger audiences are supposed to relate to doesn’t know much out of her generation and continually refers to McQueen as old (not in a joking playful manner either) even though he can’t be more than ten or fifteen years older. She often comes across as annoying and I found her somewhat dislikeable as a character. Maybe I would have enjoyed this movie more if I was also someone afraid of being replaced by the youth.
Another issue I had was the pure fact that problems in our world don’t translate into the world of cars. For example Cruz is stated to be a “Hispanic female” (whatever race means in the world of Cars) and her story is meant to reflect how some people are born into privilege and others are not. Essentially McQueen being a racecar is a white male and Cruz who isn’t a race car is a female poc. However, Cruz would wake up early to train so that she could become a racecar, even though her model wasn’t what people generally thought of for the job. This is an important topic and Disney’s Zootopia did an excellent job of dealing with issues of race, bias, class, and privilege. The world of Cars, however, isn’t really built for this kind of thing. There is a bit in the second movie about old cars being cast aside but other than that no real class system exists. Do cars have a form of currency? There is talk of wealth and selling things, but I’ve never heard of cars spending money or being poor. Another issue they bring up is sexism in the racing world. From the previous Cars movies it can be observed that lady cars don’t race since all the other racers are coded as male and voiced by male actors. In Cars 3 though we meet and old female car who used to race in Doc’s day. She mentions that when she started racing that everyone said the track was no place for a woman. I get what Pixar is trying to do they are trying to address the lack of women in male dominated fields and I guess this movie is supposed to encourage little girls that they can do whatever boys can. However, in the world of Cars it just raises questions. Is Cars a sexist society? What are the differences between male and female cars? Are gender roles and a thing and what are they? My last issue is with the ending where Lightning McQueen and Cruz switch mid race. How is this a legal thing in the world of professional racing? The only rule that they needed to abide by was Cruz needed to wear McQueen’s number. This raises more questions about the Cars universe, like why don’t all the teams adopt this method and instead of working hard to change tires really fast in the pit switch out between two cars. It seems like you could save time that way and save your racers from mental exhaustion. The fact that this is legal also makes it canon that the cars do not feel exhaustion, which is weird since they’ve definitely been out of breath before.
If you made it this long through my Cars review you’re amazing. As a movie it lacked presence and the pacing was poor. The resolution was disappointing and also confusing. All in all this movie is fine if you’re five or don’t care if the world makes sense. Otherwise I would suggest you watch something else and just forget about the world of Cars completely. Why we even needed a third Cars movie is beyond me, but if you ever want to talk to me about the world of Cars feel free because I still have many questions.