Cars 3

An unexpected turn

Cars 2 was Pixar’s first effort under Disney control and by the way the innovative studio’s first flop. Perhaps low expectations are what made me enjoy this latest lap as much as I did. Faint praise, I know, but we’ll take what we can get. But there’s other stuff to like.

Basically it’s Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) having a midlife crisis, with new, high-tech, super-engineered (and younger) racecars gaining an edge over driving skill and talent. He takes on an eager Latina personal trainer (Christela Alonzo) to up his max speed. But the real lesson, I’m thinking, is that no one can outrace time.

Larry the Cable Guy’s “Mater” has thankfully been scaled back. And NPR’s Car Talk brothers’ shtick blew me away. Even Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) gets a few welcome flashbacks. How’d they do that?

There’s spectacle, of course, but the film also offers a solid Pixar story, a decent script, and keeps things grounded with genuine if anthropomorphic emotions, pops a few surprises and imparts a satisfying sense of closure. That’s a hint, Disney. (102 min)