There are probably people thinking, ‘Oh, another Cars film from Pixar, they do churn these things out.’ But there’s a short film included on this disc – Lou – that is so beautifully detailed in its construction, and so involving in its narrative, it packs a huge emotional punch that only the most cynical of viewers could fail to be moved by.
That’s Pixar down to a tee. There’s a level of professionalism in the company that sets their product so far ahead of the competition – just as there was with Disney back in the days of Pinocchio and Sleeping Beauty – you’d expect there to be a resultant diminishment of soul; after all, the two rarely go hand in hand. But it’s Pixar’s working methods, as demonstrated in the featurette about new car Cruz, that keep the soul of the piece right at the heart of the project, and all of their films, both long and short – Cars 3 being a prime example – simply wouldn’t work if authentic characterisation and genuine emotional content wasn’t front and centre in what they do.
Cars 3 is actually about the struggle between maintaining a professional attitude and retaining your sense of self. Adult viewers will recognise the tropes (this is basically a Rocky film with cars, although the kids won’t know that). The film starts with the ingenuous Lightning McQueen beaten in a race he was expecting to win, and when it becomes clear that it’s technology itself that is largely responsible for the victory, McQueen is given over to a new sponsor and put under a rigorous training regime designed to give him back the winning edge. Of course, our hero isn’t the type to adhere to strict organisation, and before long he and his trainer – the aforementioned Cruz – are seeking his mojo elsewhere.
There are a couple of fairly predictable twists leading to an equally predictable, but nevertheless extraordinarily well-executed conclusion – and a worthwhile demonstration of the virtue found in generosity – in what is a slighter entry in the Cars series than the second instalment, but one which manages to tread similar ground to the first while successfully finding enough innovation to remain fresh and compelling.
The freshness comes from the characters. Owen Wilson’s Lightning McQueen is a defining Disney / Pixar protagonist, the artless hero who recognises his achievements no more easily than his shortfalls, and here he’s complemented well by the comedian Cristela Alonzo as Cruz, a character who would be just as driven as McQueen (no pun intended) but for the obstacles life has placed in her way. They’re terrific, and Cars 3 is an object lesson in overcoming the problems life might put in front of you, while never losing sight of who you really are in doing so.
It is, of course, as much a film about Pixar – about managing to retain that sense of independence, those very human working methods, and that ideal of promoting a sense of passion and personality, in an increasingly time sheet-led world. It’s filled with invention, idiosyncrasy and humour, and takes place in a world as rich and filled with both wonder and disappointment as our own.
If you think it’s just another Pixar film, then you’re right, it absolutely is. And that’s what makes it so wonderful and so worth having.
CARS 3 / CERT: U / DIRECTOR: BRIAN FEE / SCREENPLAY: KIEL MURRAY, BOB PETERSON, MIKE RICH / STARRING: OWEN WILSON, CRISTELO ALONZO, CHRIS COOPER, NATHAN FILLION, LARRY THE CABLE GUY, ARMIE HAMMER, BONNIE HUNT / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW