Cars 3 is an Improvement in the Pixar Franchise, But Could It Be the End of the Road?

Written by Daryn Kirscht

Coming from Pixar, the studio that has released heralded classics, like Toy Story 3, Wall-E, and Inside Out, Cars 3 has very large shoes to fill. This time around sees Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) no longer being the best racer on the race track. A newcomer, Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), has now become the hot topic in racing due to new technology that makes him faster than McQueen.

As is in the trailers, McQueen is losing once again to Storm (after Storm beat him in the first race of the film) and does not want to lose again — so he gives it his all in an attempt to catch up. Unfortunately, McQueen pushes himself too hard and finds himself in a bad wreck. The rest of the film is McQueen attempting his comeback in order to reclaim his former glory and go out on his terms, but this time he has to learn how to do it differently than in the past. It is fairly easy to see the resemblances to Rocky III and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby in terms of the plot narrative.

This movie gives me mixed feelings. There are some parts that work great and are an incredible improvement from the previous installments, but other aspects of the film bother me just a little bit more than I would like.

The best part of the entire movie is the visuals. Director Brian Fee rose through the ranks at Pixar and his animation background really shows here. Some of the cars actually look real and the action unfolds spectacularly. Fee and Pixar should be proud of how well the movie looks visually; it is definitely an accomplishment.

As for the concept of the film, I think this is the perfect way to continue the storyline of this franchise. While the overall execution of that concept is flawed (I’ll get to that in a second), the idea for the film is one that (since the studio decided on making another Cars film) is the right way to go. I know it feels somewhat generic, but putting Lightning McQueen back to being front and center and getting back to doing what worked well in the first Cars film is the right play by Pixar.

While it is a good concept for the story, it is not executed to the same level as a Pixar movie like Finding Dory. Certain parts of the movie have pacing issues and feel like a balancing act of trying to please kids and adults — falling a little short in both areas (although much better than anticipated). While some of the returning characters do well in this film, some of the newer characters are slightly weak or under-utilized at best, particularly Cruz (Cristela Alonzo). She doesn’t have much depth and falls flat in the film, but the worst part is the way she is written. It feels so counterintuitive to what happens in the later stages of the film that it takes the viewer out of the film and undermines much of what the story is about. There are other minor story details that I feel do not quite hit the mark (including the Doc Hudson scenes), but I cannot go into details without getting into spoiler territory.

All in all, Cars 3 is a decent movie that serves its purpose to kids, but I’m not sure that it is entirely necessary. Despite great voiceovers from the cast (especially Armie Hammer), spectacular visuals, and a good outline for the story, the majority of new characters combined with plot point issues refrains me from providing this movie with a positive review. This is a film that fans of the franchise will definitely still enjoy, for sure, but I cannot say I can recommend it to general audiences.

Cars 3 Rating: 5 out of 10

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites