Cars 3, 6/17/17, 4.5 Stars.
You thought the Cars movie franchise was over when Cars 2 became Pixar’s first rotten movie on both Rotten Tomatoes and Flixster users. You were wrong, Pixar (and Disney’s merchandising) decides when the Cars franchise is over. We start with Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) getting started on a new season of race car driving, where he’s upstaged by newcomer Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), and throughout the season, McQueen has his worst one yet in the face of these newcomers. In the final race of the season, Lightning gets into the accident the first teaser showed, and what follows is his seclusion, followed by Rusty and Dusty (Ray and Tom Magliozzi) selling Rusteeze to a rich business car named Sterling (Nathan Fillion) so Lightning can get the most up-to-date training from Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) and what follows is a tale of Lightning getting back into the game, with help from Cruz. Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) is also there, but in smaller doses in comparison to the Mater-centric Cars 2. It feels really dragged out for the most part, though I resisted checking my watch, because I felt invested in these characters between the way Pixar showed them and the fact I’ve been following some of them since I saw the first Cars movie in theaters in 2006. It was, however, coherent from the beginning lap to the finish line (and the victory lap in the form of a post-credits scene), with an odd choice made in the climax that’s quickly explained. However overlong it may be, the animation is gorgeous to look at thanks to Pixar’s attention to detail, subtle easter eggs, and a solid story to go along with it. Whether it advanced the story or was a fun easter egg, everything shown was there for a reason. Another great addition is the return of Randy Newman to the soundtrack, providing a warmer vibe for a warmer score than the previous Cars movie, that conveys the rush when needed and keeps it easy for the most part. There’s a good amount of humor and clean language, although there may be an adult reference or two hidden like Disney and Pixar tend to do (you’ll know it when you see it). Overall, Cars 3 is a return to form for the Cars franchise as a decent movie, but still doesn’t hold up to the rest of their library.