by Keith Hill
Rated G. Starring Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Cristela Alonzo, Armie Hammer, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Nathan Fillion and Chris Cooper. Directed by Brian Fee.
Cars 3 revisits the franchise for what should probably be the victory lap for Lightning McQueen and his crew.
When Cars 3 picks up, Lightning McQueen (Wilson) is at the top of his game. He and his buddies, Cal Weathers and Bobby Swift, have been dominating the Piston Cup for their entire careers. But then Jackson Swift (Hammer), a smug, arrogant new rookie arrives on the scene. The next generation of hi-tech racing car, he leaves Lightning in his dust and ushers in a new era of racing that sees many of his friends either retire or get dropped by their sponsors. In his desperation not to be beaten in the final race of the year, Lightning crashes spectacularly. It looks for all intents and purposes like his career is over.
McQueen heads back to Radiator Springs to consider his future, fearing that his career will end the same way as Doc’s (Newman). That is until wealthy businessman and superfan, Sterling Silver (Fillion), buys out McQueen’s sponsor, Rust-Eze, and offers him one last shot. He’s teamed up with professional racing trainer, Cruz Ramirez (Alonzo), and given access to the same cutting-edge technology Storm and his generation are training on. But McQueen takes a page from Rocky IV’s book, and instead wants to get his tires dirty, training on the same tracks as his mentor did years before, and even seeking out Doc’s old pit-chief, Smoky (Cooper).
Cars 3 sees the franchise move back into safer territory after Cars 2’s turn at an automotive spy-thriller. Nevertheless, the usual cast of characters is pushed into the background to make room for the new kids on the block. Mater, Sally, and the rest of the Radiator Springs crew offer their support to McQueen from a distance while he’s off training in the back woods. The visuals of the film are spectacular – some of the landscapes could pass for the real thing.
While it’s an improvement on Cars 2, the film doesn’t quite come up to the level of the original, which is itself considered one of the weakest of the Pixar films. The film stretches itself out longer than it needs to, considering that the lesson of learning to gracefully move aside for the next generation flags itself pretty early on.
The lesson of inter-generational mentoring is something that the Bible shows us is part of the character of the Christian life. While McQueen had to humble himself to learn from Doc in the original, here he has to learn that, after a few laps around the track, he’s got some wisdom for the next generation. This recalls the advice that the apostle Paul gives to his apprentice, Timothy, in 2 Tim 2:
‘The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.’
One of the great blessings of the diversity of the body of Christ is the ability to learn from the godly wisdom of those who have gone before us, and in turn pass it on to those who come after.
The Verdict: Like Lightning McQueen himself, it seems like Pixar is starting to slow down a bit in its old age. 3/5
Cars 3 opens on June 22 in Australia. It is already showing in the USA.