As a dad and grandpa, I was excited when I first saw that Disney/Pixar planned to release its third in the “Cars” series. I looked forward to seeing it with the youngsters.
But on Sunday evening, the Adorables with whom I had seen the despicables last week were busy, so I went alone to the Palace.
There, I discovered that the movie seemed to be directed more toward people my age (I am as old as the Super Bowl and the Ford Mustang). And it does a powerful job of helping people of my generation look back, while reminding us we still have much to look forward to.
Lightning McQueen, whom we met years ago as the flashy, brash young rookie, has become one of the old cars, being out-talked and out-raced by youngters, including the particulary arrogant Jackson Storm. While trying in his last race of the season to catch up with his younger opponent, Lightning crashes, and begins wondering if like Doc Hudson, his career will end with this incident.
He spends the off-season moping, but his sponsors (more about them later) bring in a new trainer, and a new technology, to help Lightning prepare for the soon-to-start season.
His new trainer, a bright and bossy female car named Cruz Ramirez, tries to get Lightning to adapt to the most recent in training protocols. When those do not produce the desired result, he and Cruz attempt to find the mentor of his mentor: Smokey.
Along the way, Cruz and Lightning develop a friendship and begin comparing career goals and dreams. They encounter some unexpected challenges, including a “Night of Destruction”-style figure 8 race, where a redneck school bus challenges them both.
The failures and successes of this mission make Lightning question his future in racing, and challenge Cruz to question whether she should continue to be a trainer, or look for something more.
Why you should go:
First of all, its an entertaining movie with a “G” rating. In an age when most Hollywood writers seem think that humor requires off color humor and sexual innuendo, it’s refreshing that the big screen can make you laugh without hoping your children (or granddaughters!) will repeat at home what they heard at the theater.
Second: If you have ever wondered, as a person of a certain age, how your success is, has been, or will be measured, Cars 3 provides a sweet, and funny, opportunity to reflect. Success on a race track is great, but what happens when you start to feel (and people start to say that) the time to retire is approaching? Watching our favorite No. 95 face and answer that question helps us ponder its meaning in our own lives.
Third: While the theme of “Cars” has been mostly about NASCAR-style hard surface racing, part of the movie takes Lightning back to the place where his mentor learned to race. Those who love dirt track racing may find some unique memories in “Cars 3.”
“Don’t drive like my brother”
One of the marvels of modern technology is that long after a beloved performer has died, we can still hear that person’s voice.
Those of us who have been most sad about the end of “Car Talk” on our nearest Iowa Public Radio station may be among the most-inspired by “Cars 3.”
Ray and Tom Magliozzi, the “Car Talk” brothers, spent decades on the radio, laughing for an hour each Saturday as they talked about cars, car repairs, car relationship issues and much more. They appeared as the Rust-eze sponsors in the first “Cars” movie. Ray, however, died in 2014, and for the past several years, what we heard on NPR was “The Best of Car Talk.”
Using a variety of clips from the previous movie, as well as, it seems, the radio show, the producers of “Cars 3” bring Ray’s voice back to life, and the brothers again have a significant role in the movie, as well as Lightning’s attempted comeback.
We also hear Paul Newan’s voice, as Doc Hudson. Newman played that role in the original “Cars,” but died in 2008. Unused recordings from the original movie made their way into “Cars 3.”
Why you should go:
In that story linked above Director Brian Fee says that “Cars 3” is a story of generations.
It certainly is. It’s about remembering those who taught you, and also realizing that there are people who look up to you just the way Lightning learned to look up to Doc.
Although some of the younger critics haven’t lived enough to learn to appreciate that message, I believe it is what will make Cars 3, decades from now, the favorite of this franchise.
Another reason why you should go and get there early:
This charming Pixar short animated film addresses the topic of bullying in a unique way. See more about the story behind that HERE.