Monday, June 26, 2017

Cars 3 Review

One of the best film studios in existence is back with yet another film. It's the illustrious Pixar Animation Studios! Along with every other sane individual in the world, I love Pixar! Not only do they make great movies for kids, but they normally also make fantastic movies with mature themes that adults can appreciate just as much, if not more, than the kids in the theater with them. Anyone that says animation is a kids only genre clearly has never seen a Pixar film. Which means I should've been excited for this film and rushed out opening night to go see it, right? Well, not in this instance. "Cars 3" just finished its second full weekend of release and I had to fight myself just to go give it a shot. I had no desire to see this film. Never once did I have any faith that it would be good. And not one trailer convinced me that this was a movie worth seeing. Thus is why I went nearly 10 days without even seeing this movie. I just didn't want to. When I finally forced myself to go see this, I was an angry, bitter mess. And I was having a great day up to the point where I made the decision to go see this movie. Was it as bad of a movie going experience as I was expecting it to be? Well... for about 95 percent of the movie... yes. If you were on the fence with this one, then just don't worry about it.

The big thing that caught most people off guard with this film was that first teaser trailer. We had that really dark, shocking moment where Lightning McQueen gets in a major accident, which was followed by a statement that said something to the effect of "from here on, everything changes." That made people wonder if we were going to get a dark, deep, emotional Pixar film that would end up in the top tier of Pixar films. Effective teaser, I admit. But I didn't buy it. I had no idea what they meant when they said that everything was about to change and after seeing the movie I still don't know what that means. But a teaser is a teaser. All I got out of that is that we were going back to the racetrack with this film and that towards the beginning, Lightning McQueen was going to get in a wreck and experience some sort of other setback, but then we would proceed with a cliche sports movie where he spends time training and improving before going back on the track for one more go of it at whoever this new racer was. Do you know what? I hate to toot my own horn, but that's exactly what we got with this movie. It's a cliche sports/racing movie with no major twists or turns that is only here because the "Cars" franchise is second only to "Star Wars" in toy sales.

In fact, the only big surprise here is how big of an over bloated mess this film is. I was kind of expecting a by-the-numbers racing film here. And I got a by-the-numbers racing film that felt like they had no idea how to extend it to 110 minutes, so we got a whole bunch of worthless crap that my best explanation for is that they wanted more toys, so they found ways to include as many new vehicles as possible until they finally decided to get to our actual ending. And you thought this was going to be a dark, emotional film after we saw that big crash in the teaser? Ha! Joke's on you. Do you know how long it took Lightning McQueen to get over that crash and decide to go back on the racing course? Two minutes. After he crashes, we get a thing that says four months later wherein we see Lightning McQueen in Doc Hudson's place looking at videos for a few moments. Sally drives in and tells him that he needs to go back to racing, so he drives out and announces he is going back. That's it. Thus everything you saw in that teaser that made you excited is what I call trailer fodder. It's only in the movie to make the trailer interesting, but has little pertinence to the movie itself. "Cars 3" is what you thought it was going to be when you heard it announced.

Most of this movie is a bunch of drama about Lightning McQueen being old news. He's been the king of racing for a while, but now we have a whole host of new racers that are simply better than Lightning McQueen. They are updated cars with fancier technology. The world is moving forward while Lightning McQueen is stuck in the past. He refuses to accept the fact that world is changing and that he needs change with it if he wants to stay relevant. There's new ways to train. New technology to work with. Things that could make him better. But he refuses to accept any of it as he would prefer to train by going to race on the dirt tracks and other old-fashioned ways that have always worked for him. So basically he has become Doc Hudson and he has to learn how to deal with it and he's not doing a very good job. This is all fine and dandy on paper if the movie itself had any actual focus or emotion. Which is unfortunate because, speaking of Doc Hudson, the entire movie is practically a tribute to the late Paul Newman, the legendary actor who voiced Doc Hudson in the first movie, but passed away before they could make "Cars 2." Way too much happening in this movie and not enough voice actors seeming like they even care about this movie they're making.

If the movie had decided to pick one angle with the training and run with it, then I may have been able to give this a pass. The idea of the world leaving the older generations in the dust is a real issue that could've made for a classic Pixar film that entertains kids while leaving adults in deep thought. Bring Lightning McQueen into the new training facility with this hard-nosed trainer and let the two duke it out emotionally like one of our "Rocky" movies. Instead of having one big training sequences that is fleshed out, we get four different training sequences with each new sequence shifting gears thematically and tonally. Thus when we finally got to the final race that's going to determine whether or not Lightning McQueen's career continues, given a deal that him and new boss man make, I didn't feel like we had given Lightning McQueen enough time to be ready because the movie couldn't make a decision on how it wanted to go about things after Lightning McQueen's big crash in the first act. A proper sports movie hinges on the second act of the film. If that second act succeeds, then our final sporting moment has the emotional weight to make us care about the final outcome. Because of this failure, the final act of this movie lacked this emotional weight to make things work.

So let's talk a bit about this final act. In vague terms because I don't plan on spoiling things. When I said at the beginning of this review that 95 percent of this movie was exactly how I expected it to be, there is one moment in this film that I really appreciated and it happens in this final act. No, I'm not going to give it a full 30 percent because I think the second act was bad enough to make it so I didn't really care about what happened in the end, but there is a small moment that almost redeems the film. A little bit of a twist that I didn't see coming that made me smile. In fact, it made me smile enough that I was able to bump this film up a notch. Instead of driving home saying the movie belonged in the trash bin with "Cars 2," I instead found myself debating in my head as to how this ranks when compared to "Monsters University" and "The Good Dinosaur," the two Pixar movies that are just slightly better than awful. But when push comes to shove, "The Good Dinosaur" had a lot more individual sequences that made me smile while "Monsters University" had a more powerful ending and a slightly better first and second act. But kudos to this movie for making it onto the same tier as those films while avoiding becoming a complete dumpster fire.

Speaking of tiers of Pixar movies, I have determined in my mind that there are five tiers of Pixar movies. Bring out your torches and pitchforks ladies and gentlemen, because I'm going to quickly place all of Pixar's movies into those tiers. The top tier are the Pixar classics. The masterpieces that you turn to time and time again. For this I'm going with "Toy Story 3," "Toy Story," "The Incredibles," "Monsters, Inc.," "Finding Nemo," "Inside Out" and "Up." Just under that level, but not quite at the masterpiece level, are our second tier of Pixar movies. This includes "Finding Dory," "Toy Story 2" and "Ratatouille." In our third tier, our good but not great level, I'm including "Brave," "A Bug's Life," "WALL-E" and "Cars." Jumping down to our very bottom tier, the fifth tier of awful Pixar movies, luckily there is only one. "Cars 2." But it's in the fourth tier of Pixar movies, the disappointments, where "Cars 3" belongs." As I mentioned, with it are "The Good Dinosaur" and "Monsters University." The ending of "Cars 2" moved it up from the fifth tier to the fourth tier, but the rest of this movie was bad enough for me to comfortable declare it belongs no higher and is unfortunately the second worst Pixar film. I'm giving "Cars 3" a 6/10, and even that feels a bit generous.

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