It's been more than a decade since the first "Cars" movie from Pixar Animations Studios and Walt Disney Studios raced into theaters and into the hearts of young viewers everywhere, and this weekend will see the third movie in the franchise take at least a few laps at the box office.
The good news is that "Cars 3," in my opinion, has matured and is probably the best in the series, thanks to its clever themes about aging and mentorship, and a cast of fun new characters mixed in with beloved favorites. While past installments have clearly targeted little boys, this one is meant to engage young girls, too.
This time around, Lightning McQueen (still voiced by Owen Wilson) is still at the top of his sport, until a brash new race car named Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer) starts taking first place. After McQueen suffers a bad wreck, which sends him back to Radiator Springs to recuperate, he realizes he's no longer the fastest or youngest car on the track. He fondly recalls training with his mentor Doc (voiced by the late Paul Newman in seemingly unused footage from the first movie) and decides he doesn't want what happened to Doc to happen to him. With renewed determination, McQueen heads to the new state-of-the-art Rust-eze Racing Center to get prepared for a new season, and his new sponsor Sterling (voiced by Nathan Fillion) pairs him with a young, tech-savvy trainer named Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo). Cruz considers him her senior project, but her techniques are more humorous than helpful. Ultimately, Lightning McQueen has to decide if he's too old to keep racing or if he still has it in him to stay on the track.
There's not much here to concern parents. Rated G with a runtime of one hour and 40 minutes, "Cars 3" is one of Pixar's most kid-friendly movies, featuring colorful characters, no profanity, very little innuendo, and a straightforward plot that shouldn't overwhelm children with its complexity. Yet, adults will appreciate the idea of having to face certain realities about aging and the movie's message that it's never too late to chase your dreams.
My biggest complaint, which my friend echoed after we saw "Cars 3," is that there wasn't enough of Mater (voice by Larry the Cable Guy) in it.
That said, "Cars 3" is unexpectedly funny, heartwarming and inspiring — and both parents and children are sure to enjoy it.
It is now playing in theaters nationwide.