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Cars 3 (2017)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 11/7/2017
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/20/2017
I'm embarrassed to admit that as my children have gotten older and seen more and more of my favorite movies, they've begun to realize that most of my jokes aren't original. But, one of the great things about being around kids is that you can present them with material which is not original, but they'll have no idea, as it's new to them. This idea can be transferred on a grander scale to movies. Working from the assumption that children haven't seen a lot of older films, you can recycle ideas from classic and they'll have no idea. This is clearly what we get with Cars 3, a film which owes a great debt to Sylvester Stallone.
Cars 3 opens with our hero Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) back on the racing circuit. As his newfound family watches him from Radiator Springs, Lightning resumes his position as the best racer on the circuit. But, this comes crashing to an end (literally) when a new high-tech car named Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer) arrives on the scene. Determined to beat this new class of super-cars, Lightning agrees to train with Natalie Certain (voiced by Kerry Washington). However, Natalie's work in the lab doesn't feel right to Lightning, so she and Lightning hit the road so that the racer can get back to his roots. Along the way, Lightning hopes to find his passion for racing again.
When the ideas for Cars 3 were being kicked around the Pixar office, it's pretty clear that two things were being said. The first was, "We need to do an about-face from Cars 2 and get back to what made Cars a hit.". The second thing was, "Kids haven't seen Rocky III, right?" Let's break down both of those points.
Full disclosure -- I have not seen Cars 2. But, I know that it concerns Lightning McQueen and Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) becoming international super-spies or something like that. While I don't trust other people's opinions (irony!), I also know that the film's reception was luke-warm at best (despite the fact that, like all Pixar movies, it made money). So, it's no surprise that Cars 3 takes McQueen back to his roots, both literally and literally. The movie almost plays like a remake of Cars, as the prideful McQueen suddenly finds himself humbled and realizes that he must retreat to rural America in order to become the racer which he once was. But, instead of heading to the southwest of Radiator Springs, he goes to the South, where he encounters Figure 8 racing and old-time NASCAR tracks. He is also haunted by the voice of Doc Hudson (voiced by the late Paul Newman, using old audio), and attempts to replicate Doc's training methods. Again, I understand why this approach to the film was taken, but it almost feels lazy.
As for the Rocky III thing, well, it's ludicrous just how similar the two movies are. Both have a former champ who has grown complacent and is embarrassed by a new, younger opponent. In both films, the fallen champ first attempts to train in a very public environment, and then decides to go for something much more old-school. Both movies have scenes in which the champ and his new trainer race on the beach. And in both movies, the champ constantly hears the announcers from the event which signaled his fall from grace. Now, I realize that all of these things are sports movie cliches which could have been snatched from anywhere, but the parallels to Rocky III are undeniable. Instead of Jackson Storm, why didn't they just go ahead and have a Mr. T car?
Now that I've had my rant about how unoriginal Cars 3 is, how was the overall quality? Honestly, that's difficult to say due to the fact that I felt like I'd seen it all before. It was great to see Lightning McQueen back in his element and the filmmakers did the right thing in keeping Mater on the sidelines. But, I missed some of the other characters from Radiator Springs, especially Sally, as they aren't in the film very much. Jackson is a pretty bland villain (really, which Armie Hammer as the voice, he asked, sarcastically) and few of the new characters are interesting. I must say that I didn't see the twist ending coming, less because it was surprising and more because I don't know the rules of racing. Despite this nitpicking, Cars 3 does offer some laughs and the racing footage is incredibly well-done, but we can't help to ask for more from an Oscar-winning team like Pixar than a retread.
Cars 3 made me say, "Hey! I've been there!" on 4K UHD courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 55 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look amazing, most notably reds and greens, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is fantastic and we can see the work which went into creating the animation. Even in this 2D version, the depth is notable. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 6.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround sound and stereo effects do a fantastic job of alerting us to sounds coming from off-screen. The surround effects are notably detailed and bring in very distinct noises. The subwoofer is constantly active, typically as it brings us the roar of the engines.
The extras for Cars 3 are found on the accompanying Blu-ray Disc. "Generations: The Story of Cars 3" (11 minutes) has Director Brian Fee discussing the process of and challenges of creating a sequel. From there, other staff members discuss how they approached the story. "Let's. Get. Crazy." (8 minutes) examines the demolition derby scene and takes us to a real figure 8 track. "Cars to Die(Cast) For" (5 minutes) shows us some of the toys made for this movie and the series in general. "Legendary" (11 minutes) shows the creative team visiting real tracks in the South to find the roots of racing. "World's Fastest Billboard" (6 minutes) takes a fun look at the design of the cars, the backgrounds, and specifically the car decals. "Fly-Throughs" offer a drone's-eye view of the "Thomasville", "Florida International Speedway", and "Rust-Eze Racing Center" locations. "My First Car" are animated shorts which allow Kerry Washington, Graphic Artist Craig Foster, and Technical Resident Valeria Barra to talk about the first car which they owned. The Disc contains six DELETED SCENES which run about 26 minutes, included an introduction from Fee. These are presented in a rough style. We get five TRAILERS and two reels of animated vignettes.
Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long