When it comes to animated films for the family, it's hard to beat Pixar. In releasing their latest film-Cars 3-the company has created a moving and satisfying trilogy of films that will not only entertain the little ones, but teach them valuable lessons as they grow up.
It helps to have great voice work from a willing cast, with the likes of Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion, Armie Hammer, and Cristela Alonzo pitching in to round out the third and probable final story in the illustrious career of Lightning McQueen (Wilson, once again hitting the perfect tone between earnest and energetic).
When we catch up to McQueen, the world of racing is starting to pass him by. An analog player in a furiously digital world, the aging race car is seeing his racing mates drop off left and right as the entire sports undergoes a transformation in technology, equipment, and an infusion of Dominic Toretto type fast and furious engines.
Can he remain one of the best or is it time for McQueen to hang them up, and return to Radiator Springs? That is the table-setter for this third flick, which wisely brings the main character full circle. When you think back to the first film-released back in 2006-McQueen came to Radiator Springs an arrogant young racer who had no clue about what it takes to succeed in the sport. With the guidance of Doc Hudson (great to hear the late Paul Newman again, even if is archived footage) and the nurture of Sally (Bonnie Hunt), McQueen found his way and a family all at once.
The 2011 sequel was decent, but left people wanting more from a wrap to the series. Cars 3 delivers that need, and quenches the thirst of franchise fans by moving McQueen into part time mentor mode as he receives training for a comeback from Cruz Rameriz (Alonzo) while helping the young ambitious female driver reach her own potential. Cooper fills out the Hudson role as Smokey, the old truck and racing friend of Doc who nudges Lightning in the right direction.
All the while, Wilson's McQueen struggles with his legacy as a racer and whether he has told enough. With a new generation of drivers led by Jackson Storm (a hilarious Hammer), what path does Lightning take to achieve peace?
By using cinematic eye candy, director Brian Fee (who crafted the original story as well) takes the heartwarming story and uses it to teach the kids watching it a message about perseverance and knowing when to step away. The second half of the film borrows a few pages from the Rocky Balboa story arc to close out this tale, and the effect can be felt.
The breathless Pixar animation lends a helping hand to the enjoyment level, painting every single frame in beautifully vivid colors, without overdoing it. You truly feel like the worlds created by this studio are one of a kind.
Look, I've watched hours upon hours of Cars related movies over the past five years, and I can tell you this was the best way to wrap up McQueen's story. The kids won't just like it, because the eclectic cast will appeal to casual moviegoers as well. My wife laughed and smiled as much as my five year old son did, and when we left, there was satisfaction that a film wasn't just made to grab some cash.
Like its star, Wilson, Cars 3 is earnest, lovable, and easy to please. Kids can take something valuable away from this trilogy, and parents can enjoy themselves at the same time.
So, if you want to get out of the heat and have a good time with the kids this weekend, take a chance on Cars 3. The forecast calls for smiles as the lights come back on.