When Disney purchased Pixar, the animation studio pledged to make a sequel every other year. It’s why there’s been a Monsters University and Finding Dory. Neither Monsters, Inc. or Finding Nemo needed a sequel, but in the quest for the almighty dollar, they happened. Pixar’s list of sequels also includes the worst film they’ve ever made, Cars 2, which should have put the franchise in the garage.
Because it’s a series of films about cars?
Anyway. Considering around $10 billion of Cars merchandise has been sold to date, not to mention the combined $1 billion the first two entries earned worldwide at the box office, why wouldn’t there be a Cars 3?
This time around, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is the aging veteran struggling to hold onto relevance in the Piston Cup circuit. Once Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer)—a new, more powerful racer—enters the scene, it’s curtains for McQueen and his contemporaries. McQueen tries to hang on, but a horrific wreck sends him back to square one. Working to get back to a championship level, the racer butts heads with the smart but insecure Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonso), who once had dreams of being a racer herself.
The best thing about Cars 3? There’s racing. Lots of it. The opening race in Cars was stunning, and the lack of speed in a franchise about a race car has been more than disappointing. That’s not the case in Cars 3, thank goodness.
Cars 3 is completely unnecessary. After Cars, there wasn’t a lot of room for an organic sequel. How many movies about cars can there be? It helps explain the ludicrous premise of Cars 2. Cars 3 does its best to remedy things, forgetting all about the first sequel and building upon themes from the first film, especially the relationship between Lightning and Doc Hudson. Scenes from the original Cars are used in flashback, including Paul Newman’s voice. There’s even new material featuring Newman, with Pixar using alternate takes and behind the scenes conversations from his voice recording sessions during the first Cars for the new material.
The addition of original material from Newman, who died in 2008, only adds to the nostalgic and bittersweet McQueen/Doc relationship, which lies at the heart of Cars 3. Newman’s presence also makes up for the absence of Michael Keaton, who voiced the first film’s villain, Chick Hicks. Keaton has been replaced by Up co-director Bob Peterson. This time around, Hicks hosts a racing show, getting digs in at McQueen every chance he gets.
Cars 3 isn’t as good as the original Cars, but it’s cute enough entertainment. Outside of Toy Story, Pixar has struggled with sequels, and Cars 3 doesn’t solve that issue. The threequel gets it right for the most part. At least, as much as a Cars sequel can.