REVIEW: Better than the first, CARS 3 brings much-needed heart to franchise, feminist core
It invariably happens every single time a Pixar movie comes out. The recurring questions: Has Pixar lost its way? Can they still make the magic? Is it all down hill from here? Everyone has their favorites and least favorites and you’ll be hard pressed to shake people out of those preferences. CARS 3 could shake non-believers into the Disney-Pixar world of talking vehicles. Dare I say, I liked it better than the first.
I’m in the camp that enjoyed the first CARS; the world-building, thorough use of punny dad jokes, and stunning visuals made for a really original fun new universe. We all try to forget the second one–which felt like an odd deviation for both the franchise and the studio–and it seems with this newest model that we’re supposed to try to pretend that romp never happened.
The chassis on which the franchise is built is strong so it’s not surprising that they were able to change lanes between the shaky second and this super-charged third film. The TOY STORY franchise was able to rock out an incredible third at-bat so maybe “third time’s a charm” is a recurring theme for the house that the lamp built.
CARS 3 is absolutely solid, something you’d expect to come from the brand–as a sequel or otherwise.
So what exactly makes CARS 3 such a winner? It’s full of layers. The film will hit on a myriad of touchpoints for adult viewers; from themes of yearning for success, finding your place in the world, pursuing your dreams, mid-life crisis, and getting old. But that’s not even all of it.
Perhaps the most surprising and gratifying addition is that of a strong feminist element. Without getting much into plot points, it turns out that being a female and taking a stand proves just as intimidating an endeavor as it does in our world, especially in the high-octane world of racing. So to layer this message into a film that will be easily dubbed as a “boy’s movie,” makes it all the more impactful.
The heart of this feminist element is Cruz Ramirez voiced by Cristale Alonzo. She is smart and determined (kudos too for her Latina last name) yet she is weighted by self-doubt. This makes her quite the contrast to our established and overly-confident Lightning McQueen (voiced once again by Owen Wilson) who is facing some of his own sense of internal conflict and doubt. Together, they find the determination to take the steps they need to achieve their respective self-fulfillment with their careers and their lives. Truly, this is not the race you’re expecting to set out on at the beginning.
I was not prepared to feel so pumped and energized as the film came to its exciting conclusion. It’s not often that an animated feature leaves audiences clapping–especially at media screenings–and there was a collective enthusiastic energy when the end credits started. Throughout the feature I felt myself smiling intently and with just a few short lulls, speeds along the entire time without ever-feeling too overly sentimental, sappy, or preachy.
This film is a winner. And yes, Pixar’s still got it.
CARS 3 races into theaters June 16, 2017.