I’ve got a soft spot for Pixar’s remake of Doc Hollywood with Cars. When that film came out in 2006 it was subjected to a lot of, “Meh…Toy Story was better!” responses from the public, and quite a few people rank it quite low on their lists of Pixar films. Granted, it is nowhere near the heady heights of Finding Nemo, Up, and Wall-E, but it was not in any way, shape or form a bad film. Then again, I always loved Doc Hollywood anyway, so why not enjoy an animated version?
Sadly, when Cars 2 came along, it was pretty much deserving of all the malice it received. Maybe it was deliberately bad, you know to make the haters re-appreciate the first film? It was hard to work out how John Lasseter could have been at all responsible for the sequel, with the poor spy-caper approach, and focus on Mater capturing none of the charm that the first film had. The film was nothing more than an excuse for a range of toys to sell again (they had pretty much worn out the resprayed cars from the first film by that point). So pretty much nobody asked for a third film…but Pixar, being the ‘resting on past successes’ company they are today gave us one anyway.
Cars 3 takes us back to the tone of the first film, seeing Lightning back in the racing circuit, although now he is finding age is creeping up on him and newer cars are taking the lead. Wanting to prove he is still relevant, he begins a high-tech training routine set up by the owner of his sponsors, Rust-Eze, before deciding training the old way would work better for him. Taking his trainer Cruz Ramirez along with him, the pair form an unlikely friendship, and Lightning begins to see her as a protégé as well as his coach.
What was missing from the second film was a heart, a laid back approach, and a feeling of a genuine journey of the soul for the characters. Thankfully all are present here in Cars 3, and if the first film was Doc Hollywood, this is Rocky Balboa mixed in with a bit of Creed. The new cast additions are great, with a special mention to Nathan Fillion as the billionaire Sterling. Cristela Alonzo lends some genuine emotion in her role as Cruz, and this burgeoning friendship at the core of the film is what really makes the story tick. Oh, and marginalising Larry the Cable Guy as Mater this time was a good idea.
Unfortunately, by playing close to the themes and tone of the first film, Cars 3 suffers from being just a touch too familiar, and doesn’t really have that ‘progression’ that the Toy Story films saw, but instead feels akin to Finding Dory – an attempt at capturing a ‘greatest hits’ kind of vibe that misses the mark. Entertaining but instantly forgettable, it is certainly a better sequel than Cars 2 was, but that’s about as far as I’d go.