Cars 3: Four wheeled fun for the family

Film: Cars 3

Cast: (Voiced by) Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Armie Hammer, Larry the Cable Guy, Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion, Kerry Washington, Bonnie Hunt, Cheech Marin, Tony shalhoub, Ray Magliozzi

Director: Brian Fee

Nice to see female characters, never mind if they’re only toy cars, in an area traditionally dominated by males in Disney’s animation comedy adventure threequel of the franchise which started some 11 years ago. Not so nice to see two of them in blink-and-miss roles.

Happily, scriptwriters Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich fleshed out a meaty role for Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo) a young trainer who tries to help racing champ Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) rev up against fast-talking new cars Jackson Storm. (Armie Hammer of the Social Network fame)

Lightning’s near-fatal crash on the racetrack is rendered with such blistering intensity (in CGI 3D) child viewers (and even adults) will be alarmed by the dangerous, life-threatening sport that car racing actually is, beneath the veneer of speed and excitement.

Back home in Radiator Springs, the dejected Lightning feels better in the company of his buddies, tow-truck Mater, hero of Spy Thriller Cars 2 (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) and Porsche Sally (Bonnie Hunt).

Lightning looks almost as good as new after a makeover but not quiet. He dreams of his teacher Hud (Paul Newman in CARS 1) and rejects Cruz’s good-natured attempts at training at a stint in Florida sponsored by “businesscar” Sterling (Nathan Fillion).

Between the chuckles at the sight of a forklift that works as a bouncer (HA HA) and a huge herd of tractor-cows in a beautifully rendered rural landscape, there is pathos when Cruz reveals her broken dreams of becoming a racer because her mother always told her to “dream small.” Happily, a veteran ‘51 Ford named Smokey (Chris Cooper) inspires both Lightning and Cruz. All’s well that ends well. The winner vrooms to a well-deserved win, after viewers are treated to lessons about the value of friendship, acceptance and mentoring in a competitive world.

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