Review: CARS 3 (2017) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Friday, 18 August 2017

Review: CARS 3 (2017)

Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) and his rival, Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) in CARS 3 (2017)

Following his shocking loss to a new high-tech rookie named Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer), Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) realises his days are numbered. Fortunately, he gets his second chance to reclaim victory when his wealthy sponsor Sterling (Nathan Fillion) offers him a chance to train using state-of-the-art racing technology. Soon, he is paired with a motivational coach named Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) to improve his skills.

REVIEW: Two months after CARS 3 made its debut in the US, Lightning McQueen and his automobile gang finally journeyed across our local cinemas to take advantage of the yearly second-term school holiday. Timely release date aside, it has been six years since CARS 2 was famously faltered (at least, critically) for being the worst animated feature by Pixar standard. Apparently, lessons learned as CARS 3 wisely ignored the second movie's globe-trotting spy movie clichés in favour for a more personal story that deals with ambition and redemption. Best of all, Brian Fee -- a Pixar's storyboard artist making his directorial debut -- manages to channel some of the amiable spirit seen in the 2006's underrated original.

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) race along the beach in CARS 3 (2017)

Instead of mentor-and-protégé character dynamics between Paul Newman's Doc Hudson and Owen Wilson's Lightning McQueen, the third instalment gets plenty of mileage with an earnest chemistry from McQueen and Cristela Alonzo's Cruz Ramirez. Whereas McQueen was sadly sidelined in the second movie to make way for Larry the Cable Guy's Mater, it's finally nice to see him taking the pole position again. The story, which focuses on the bitter truth about his ageing and dealing with a younger, yet more efficient competitor (Armie Hammer's Jackson Storm) in the ever-evolving world of stock-car racing, particularly hits home with its thought-provoking screenplay. As McQueen's new training buddy/partner, Cristela Alonzo steals most of the show with her likeable persona as Cruz Ramirez.

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) meets Doc Hudson's former mechanic and crew chief, Smokey (Chris Cooper) in CARS 3 (2017)

The supporting characters are equally competent, with effective performances by Larry the Cable Guy's Mater and Bonnie Hunt's Sally, albeit their significantly minor appearances this time around. As for the newcomers to the CARS franchise, Armie Hammer delivers a perfectly arrogant performance as Jackson Storm. Lea DeLaria is delightful as the rowdy monster school bus of the demolition derby, Miss Fritter. Chris Cooper's grizzled turn as Doc Hudson's former mechanic and crew chief, Smokey, is a nice addition. Speaking of Doc Hudson, the late Paul Newman's voice recording is effectively used here while his presence brings a welcome call-back to the first movie.

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) gets caught in the mud during the Thunder Hollow demolition-derby scene in CARS 3 (2017)

Likewise, the photorealistic animation is top-notch. From the shiny car models to the race sequences, and even to tiny details like the thick mud seen during the Thunder Hollow demolition-derby scene, every visual here is rendered to meticulous perfection.

Finally, CARS 3 ends with a seemingly perfect closure that brings the franchise to a full circle. Although some of the humour and the story tends to sag at times, the third instalment remains a fun and heartfelt addition to the CARS franchise.

Thanks to its eye-catching animation and a thoughtful storyline, CARS 3 is a marked improvement over the half-baked second movie and a worthy successor to the 2006 original.

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