As a franchise, Cars has always taken a somewhat more juvenile approach, aimed at a younger demographic; those predominantly under the age of 12. The latest, however, is handling quite profound, mature themes, scrutinising over the notion of an ever-changing contemporary landscape, particularly in sport, and how big money expenses are slowly stripping away any sense of traditionalism. However Pixar have maintained their childish approach to storytelling, thus leaving both parents and child alienated as a film that vies to have its cake and eat it.
Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) has been the star of the circuit for many years now, but suddenly finds his status threatened when a new generation of racers arrive, complete with brand-spanking new technology that means they run a lot fast than he ever could. Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) is the new kid on the block, leaving Lightning as something of a product of a bygone era. But he’s unwilling to back down, desperately hoping to prove himself, as he teams up with the uncompromising trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) to get back into pole position.
The pertinent themes that are studied within this Brian Fee endeavour are evidently interesting and deserving of cinematic treatment – and yet Cars 3 feels tedious in parts, with several sections of the movie that simply pass the time. It’s a franchise that has always been a challenge to emotionally engage and invest in. Of course with any animation it requires a suspension of disbelief as we embody toys, monsters, fish or robots – and yet we always find ourselves transported to this universe, caring so much about the protagonists at hand. Yet talking cars have struggled to have the same impact, and sadly this latest endeavour is no different. It doesn’t help that there isn’t enough conflict within the movie, and while Jackson Storm represents the new generation taking over from the old, it’s a character severely underused throughout.
It’s just hard to know exactly who Cars 3 is aimed at. The original film, released 11 years ago, will have attracted a vast audience of youngsters, who will now be in their late teenage years – but this film doesn’t feel as though it’s for them. Not to mention the fact that it’s the young whippersnappers who are effectively vilified within the film. Meanwhile parents may feel put-off by the more playful, irreverent nature of the film, while the young children in the audience may not quite comprehend the themes being explored. It leaves a film, and franchise, that feels superfluous in the Pixar catalogue, and one that, thankfully, we may just have seen the back of.