When Pixar was about to release 'Cars 3', I found myself teetering on my opinion of Pixar sequels altogether. This was yet another case when I wondered why 'The Incredibles' still hadn't earned a sequel, and they seemed to be milking the 'Cars' universe for more than it was worth. However, I did learn my lesson about jumping to conclusions with 'Finding Dory' and still decided to give it a shot. At the time, I hadn't seen 'Cars 2' yet, but considering most of the call-back in this has to do with the first film, I was okay, and actually pleasantly surprised.
Plot-wise, the film sees the return of Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) as the main focus. He's still running his races, winning most, if not all of them, and pretty much at the top of his game. McQueen seems to have found his "happily ever after", and lived a good life alongside Sally (Bonnie Hunt) and the rest of his old friends from Radiator Springs, including good old Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). The fans and various crews still respect and admire his skill, but soon enough, a threat comes along in the form of a rookie racer named Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer); a cocky, decked out car with all the bells and whistles. In many ways, McQueen is now challenged by the Lightning McQueen personality we knew from the first film.
With Storm comes a whole new set of Piston Cup Racers that have been decked out and customized, representing a next generation. Meanwhile, McQueen starts to lose his touch and, at one point, even wrecks himself on the track. But while his fellow racers and acquaintances from the track are starting to pack it in and retire, McQueen isn't quite ready to call it quits. He calls his sponsors at Rusteze, who bring him in to train on some of the new state of the art equipment the up-and-comers have been using. Eventually, he's introduced to his new trainer, Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), who tries to get McQueen back on his feet. But when McQueen jumps the gun to try to use an advanced simulator, he breaks it, and the new Rusteze owner, Sterling (Nathan Fillion), tries to get him to retire and make way for the new generation.
McQueen, refusing to be beaten, decides to get away and practice his skills, bringing Cruz along. It's right around here when the viewer starts to see the story getting altered and becoming something you didn't quite expect, but to be fair, the way things end up are fairly predictable. Sometimes, however, predictable isn't necessarily bad. Even though you see things coming from a mile away, the execution is well done, and it really does make things feel like a wrapped-up trilogy. I don't know the plans for the future of this franchise, but it works a lot like 'Toy Story' in that, even if they do continue things, you can still choose to see things as a trilogy. Personally, I think things end on a pretty high note, at least as far as these films go. It's a vast improvement from 'Cars 2', and its an interesting take on "passing the torch", so to speak.
The basic story here is the idea that something new comes along to push the old out, and there's not much one can do about it; like how talkies once replaced silent film. So, in my opinion, this is a more than worthy sequel to the first film, and I might treat the second film as more of a completely separate adventure for Mater fans. Once again, the Academy Award situation that year overlooked one film entirely only to award another Pixar film the Oscar (which happened in 2016 when 'Inside Out' won while 'The Good Dinosaur' was overlooked). Despite that though, I do find this one somewhat underrated. As much as I'm lukewarm towards the 'Cars' franchise, I really like the way this film ends on an inspirational note that suggests that sometimes an end can just be seen as a new beginning.
'Cars 3' doesn't entirely carry that Pixar magic with it, but I do appreciate its message despite perhaps being an odd one out with it. I understand how predictable it can get, and I understand why it's not the strongest Pixar title in the library. But as far as reaching me on a personal level, it does succeed in some ways. It's a lot like the first 'Cars' in that sense. All in all the movie is okay, and doesn't really tug on any heartstrings like may Pixar films do. But at the same time, you get what the movie is trying to say, and it's a message anyone can appreciate. I'd probably still consider the first 'Cars' my favourite of the bunch, but this does (at least to me) feel pretty on-par with it. It's not a favourite, but I can see revisiting it just for a bit of inspiration.
Writers and Directors