It’s pretty well agreed that “Cars 2” was no “Cars.” I wasn’t nuts about “Cars,” either, but after that assaultive and unfunny sequel, I was hoping against hope that the franchise would come to a screeching halt. Little chance of that, since the films have pulled in billions of dollars in ticket sales and merchandise.
So how good/bad is “Cars 3”? If we’re talking Pixar threepeats here, it’s certainly no “Toy Story 3.” Instead, it’s a reasonably diverting, somewhat sluggish attempt to reinstall the “heart” of the first installment, as it focuses on Lightning McQueen (voiced as always by Owen Wilson) as he attempts a comeback after a crushing defeat against state-of-the-art bad boy Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer).
Brian Fee, taking over from previous director John Lasseter, brings back some of the stalwarts, such as tow-truck buddy Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) and Lightning’s mentor, Doc Hudson (the late Paul Newman), but the aura of nostalgia that pervades “Cars 3,” with extended talk about retirement options and the good old days, made a lot of the kids at my screening fidgety. Me, too. A feminist angle, with race technician Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) primed for the big time, was refreshing. If Pixar and DC Comics can work it out, maybe Cruz can team with Wonder Woman. Grade: B- (Rated G.)