Cars 3

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Cars 3
And why are there school buses? Even child cars wouldn't fit through those doors.

Pixar’s first bad movie, “Cars 2,” erred in making Mater the tow truck the main character and in emphasizing a tired espionage caper over jokes. Pixar’s second bad movie, “Cars 3,” fixes those mistakes and replaces them with different ones. This time, the accursed Mater is hardly around at all (and the film seems apologetic when he is), and instead of a spy adventure it’s a boring existential drama about an aging racer’s fear of obsolescence. Whee! Vrooom!

Pretending (as far as I can tell without re-watching “Cars 2”) that “Cars 2” did not happen, “Cars 3,” has champion racer Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) still (or possibly again? I don’t remember) at the top of his game. But a new challenger has emerged: Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer, wasted), a sleeker, faster rookie whose modern design and state-of-the-art training practices could spell the end for old-timers like Lightning McQueen.

But Lightning McQueen will not be forced into retirement! “I decide when I’m done,” he says resolutely, as if rubbing it in our faces that Pixar will never stop making “Cars” movies. Lightning reluctantly teams up with a new high-tech sponsor, Sterling (Nathan Fillion), who gives him a perky female trainer, Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), who puts him through his paces like a spin-class instructor (“And merge! And yield! And merge. And yield!”) Missing his old mentor, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman, resurrected for a few lines), Lightning also goes in search of Doc’s mentor, Smokey (Chris Cooper), for advice. Everyone helps him get back to basics and come to terms with his own mortality.

Doesn’t that sound fun, kids??

[Continue reading at Crooked Scoreboard.]

C- (1 hr., 49 min.; G, harmless.)