SAY what you want about Pixar’s Cars franchise (and it’s repeatedly been reviewed as the weakest in the studio’s résumé), but the previous two Cars flicks have at the very least been technically brilliant, visually astounding and chock-full of automotive in-jokes.
Anyone who reviews them without gushing over Cadillacinspired mountain ranges, Whitworth bolt-bearing villains and the offer of a “free Lincoln Continental breakfast” at the Cozy Cone Motel just doesn’t get cars.
Cars 3, which has recently been released in Australia, is a welcome return to the sentimental, sepia-toned, Route 66-inspired feel of the original film.
Now a veteran of the track, race car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is still consistently at the pointy end of the field, jostling for podium positions amongst a core group of respectful rivals. That is, until technologically advanced rookie Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) makes mincemeat of the established frontrunners, plonking himself in P1 in his first race.
But Storm isn’t the main antagonist here; the passage of time is. Following Storm’s victory, ever-increasing numbers of similar, new-generation cars enter the fray, forcing older racers to retire or be fired by their sponsors. Ever-competitive, Lightning ends up pushing himself too hard and bins it.
During his primer-sporting convalescence, he confronts ageing, loss and the possibility that there are faster race cars out there.
Seeking an edge, he attends Rust-Eze’s new racing training centre, resplendent with dyno/treadmills, cuttingedge simulators and a perky racing coach, Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo). Lightning finds Cruz’s methods jarring and the machinery bewildering; but in turn he schools her on the established training regimen his hero Doc Hudson (the late Paul Newman) passed down to him.
Lightning meets with Doc’s old mates from the glory days, attempting to get into his late friend’s head and work out how ‘The Fabulous Hudson Hornet’ became so fabulous.
Car enthusiasts will smile wryly at the many signposted place names in Cars 3, such as Spark Plug Gap and Gudgeon Pines – blink-and-you’ll-miss-them winks from Pixar’s car-loving team directly to people like us. But the sheer beauty and detail of the rotting Thomasville Speedway – Doc Hudson’s home track – will arouse emotions of nostalgia you didn’t know you had for something that doesn’t actually exist.
SURE, it’s not Shakespeare, but like all Pixar flicks, Cars 3 is fun, colourful, slick and full of wit, and definitely worth seeing on the big screen. Every track-torn rubber pebble, every chrome-laden old-timer and every fleeting car reference will keep you riveted until the credits roll. s
VEHICLES: 2006 ‘NASCAR’, 2017 ‘Coupe’, 2017 ‘NASCAR’, 1946 Hudson pick-up, 1951 Hudson Hornet, 2002 Porsche 911, 1963 Dodge Dart, 1965 Dodge A-100, 1989 Mack truck STARS: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper, Armie Hammer, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Paul Newman DIRECTOR: Brian Fee ACTION: Plenty of racing action, including McQueen and Ramirez in a mud-soaked demolition derby, and fiery flashbacks to Doc Hudson’s glory days PLOT: Finding himself fast becoming irrelevant against a new breed of race car, Lightning McQueen makes a pilgrimage to his hero’s hometown AVAILABLE: In cinemas now FLICK FACT: Paul Newman recorded a ton of extra dialogue while reading his part for the original movie, enabling his character to appear in Cars 3 despite Newman being dead since 2008