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Cars 3 Gets Back to Its Racing Roots

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Number 95 is back in a big way. Lightning McQueen, everyone’s favorite red racer, finds himself in a bit of a crisis. It’s been eleven years since he debuted as a rookie sensation waylaid in Radiator Springs. He made new best friends and a big comeback.

McQueen’s winning ways can’t last forever, however. Newer, faster, stronger cars burst onto the circuit, causing upheaval in every way. Cars 3 is a story of how Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) finds a way to win again, but with an unexpected twist. What is winning? Ideas of family, mentorship, and courage are in the forefront.

Old favorites (and their human voices) are back in the mix, like Mater, Sally, Luigi, Guido, and even the late great Doc Hudson (still voiced by the late Paul Newman, thanks to technology). New characters propel the story along and make up the meatiest parts of the plot. McQueen’s new nemesis is Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), a sleek race car with a snotty attitude. Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) is a young yellow sports car who becomes McQueen’s new trainer. What can she possibly teach him? There is even new comic relief in the form of a jacked-up demolition derby school bus named Miss Fritter (Lea DeLaria). I’d watch an entire movie about Miss Fritter.

As expected, the animation is fantastic and artful. The racing sequences are gripping, especially when the characters depart oval paved tracks in favor of the beach and backwoods. A short, exhilarating sequence gives a nod to the origins of American auto racing—Moonshine (but without mention of the alcohol type).The music soundtrack features songs from Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Dan Auerbach with an Americana feel, almost a love letter from coast to coast.

Parents will be able to appreciate the nuances and challenges of hitting the mid-life point when our mentors fade away and a new generation rises. What do you do when you’re no longer the flashy new kid on the block? There are several stretches of dialogue when I looked over at my little boys and could see it flying right over their heads. They were aptly entertained by zippy comic scenes and the drama of the race, however.

Cars 3 opens on June 16, 2017. It is rated G.

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