It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in that time), and the filmmakers have wisely decided to go back to basics for this one. After the sequel's foray into global spy mayhem, this movie keeps its focus on the race track. There's still that nagging lack of logic in the premise: a world of cars living like people, except that there are no people. But the oddest thing about this movie is that its themes are aimed at grown-ups, not children.
It opens as Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is at the top of his career, winning every race and celebrated as a rock star. Then young upstart Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) beats him, using high-tech training methods. To boost his speed, McQueen's sponsor (Nathan Fillion) sets him up with hot new trainer Cruz (Cristela Alonzo). But the old-school McQueen doesn't like simulators; he wants to feel sand in is tyres. So he takes Cruz on a cross-country trip to tap into his roots and show her the purity of racing on a dirt track. This involves seeking out salty old trainer Smokey (Chris Cooper) as McQueen prepares for a make-or-break race. Meanwhile, a TV pundit (Kerry Washington) drastically cuts McQueen's odds of winning any more races at all.
It's unlikely that kids in the audience will be able to identify with the central idea that you need to recognise when it's time to step aside for the younger generation. But then, they're mainly watching these movies for the vroom-vroom action, then buying the merchandise and recreating the races at home. The plot is for the adults, really, and this film provides a very nice story arc for McQueen (and Cruz as well). There is also, of course, a non-stop barrage of automotive puns and sight gags, silly side characters and wacky action. The stand-out scene is a riotous demolition derby in the mud.
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It's a good story (though not as deep as Antz), has genuinely funny characters (much funnier than Antz), and is certainly good for the whole family (unlike Antz altogether). Be sure to check out the DVD, which features both sets of "outtakes" which roll during the credits--hilarious!
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