Cars 3 - This Pixar Movie Takes It's Time But Eventually Moves Into Rocks Gear
Dir: Brian Fee
Starring Owne Wilson, Armie Hammer, Paul Newman, Larry the Cable Guy, Cristela Alonzo, Bonnie Hunt, Chris Cooper. Tony Shaloub, Kerry Washington
We all know that in the world of Pixar movies if you’re over eight, you do not generally consider the Cars movies to be the best the studio has ever had to offer. So going into a threequel is not the best thing in the world – especially if you’re a parent likely to be passing a toyshop any time in the next year or two (these things have more than a half-life.)
And initially, Cars 3 appears to fall into all those underwhelming traps. Indeed, at one point Owen Wilson’s Lightning McQueen is confronted with an array of his own merch and even says something along the lines of “But I’m not a brand.” Without irony! (And the director's name is "Fee"!!) Wake up matey and smell the dollars.
But then, curiously, Cars 3 slowly morphs into a movie of two very distinctive halves. Don’t get us wrong – it’s still one of Pixar’s lesser efforts and for the first half or so it commits the crime of – and this is a first – appearing to be a movie that any other studio could have made!! And that is a terrible thing to say when you consider what Pixar has done and the high benchmark it represents.
But then…even more curiously…Lightning goes home. And so does the film. It becomes something warmer, something more in touch with its own basic nature – more human even (given the automobiles) - and it becomes really rather good.
The weird thing is, this doesn’t feel intentional. It feels like a happy accident. When they were making it, the film feels likes Pixar had as much faith in the faithless first half as they do in the altogether more successful second half. Those product placements early on – mud flaps aside – do not ring true as clever, or satirical. They ring out as jaundiced, opportunistic and having run out of love for their own film.
But then, Cars 3 turns everything around. And becomes a film that genuinely rediscovers its own heart and runs with it, to the point of reinventing its own – by now worn out – story line into something quite impressive and moving in new and refined terms. In short, it reminds us of what Pixar does better than anyone else. And it does it with its usual level of wit and smarts.
It’s a shame it takes about the first fifty minutes to get to that point. But when it does, the ride is worth it. Certainly more than in Cars 2 – probably more than the original.
It’s unusual to see such an accomplished team as Pixar flounder for so long on a film they’ve actually released as a finished product – but the wait proves to be worth it.
And – through the wonder of previously unused outtakes – it’s just lovely to hear Paul Newman’s voice again.
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