Racers, get ready, because Lightning McQueen is back on the track—possibly for the last time.
Disney•Pixar’s Cars 3 shows racing legend Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) in what seems to be his prime racing days—until the rookies roll their way onto the track. The limelight suddenly shifts from McQueen to newcomer Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), a hotshot car with the newest technology who trains on the most high-tech equipment available. As the wins start piling up for Storm, a desperate McQueen pushes himself too hard, which ends in an accident that puts his retirement on the table.
But McQueen is still the same determined hotshot from the previous Cars films. Not ready to put his racing days behind him just yet, McQueen begins training once again, this time with the help of the feisty and energetic Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), a trainer and long-time fan of McQueen who isn’t short of spunk or old person jokes. Together, the duo set out to prepare McQueen for what could be the last race of his career with the help of some friends new and old.
Cars 3 does a spectacular job blending the nostalgia of the 11-year-old first film in the franchise with new, exciting characters and locations that keep the story fresh. While McQueen’s friends from Radiator Springs take more of a back seat in the movie, the audience still gets a laugh out of his goofy interactions with his loyal best friend Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) and gets glimpses of his still-strong relationship with Sally (Bonnie Hunt).
However, the main influence in McQueen’s journey this time is famous racer Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), McQueen’s mentor who died before the events of Cars 2. Memories of Hudson help push McQueen toward his former glory, and they also parallel a new dynamic that begins to form during the film to bring Cars 3 full circle.
The ending is satisfying enough to end the franchise with this film, but the introduction of so many colorful new characters also leaves the possibility of expanding the Cars world even further. Viewers are introduced to Hudson’s mentor Smokey (Chris Cooper), who offers McQueen a new look into Hudson’s past, and the greedy Sterling (Nathan Fillion), who plans to profit off pushing McQueen into retirement.
The new crew of female characters are the ones to steal the show, though. Kerry Washington voices Natalie Certain, a brilliant statistical analyst whose commentary guides the viewers through the changing technology of the Cars racing world. Miss Fritter (Lea DeLaria) is the reigning champion of the Crazy 8 Derby at Thunder Hollow, and the massive bus keeps viewers on the edge of their seat as she pummels through the competing cars. Viewers also get their first look at a famous female racer Louise Nash (Margo Martindale), one of the first female race cars on the track who didn’t let men telling her “no” keep her from achieving her dreams.
The new array of female characters is refreshing in a franchise previously dominated by male characters. Ramirez shines as the hero of the story in more ways than one, and she adds a new voice to the film that female viewers will be inspired to see.
While Cars 2 didn’t carry the franchise to many new heights, Cars 3 accomplishes that and more with a vibrant group of new characters and locations while holding onto themes that made the original Cars film so strong. McQueen’s journey isn’t just McQueen’s journey as the movie delves into Ramirez’s story, and audiences will be kept guessing about the fate of their favorite racer until the last lap.