What the hell is it with Pixar’s stubborn obsession with pushing Cars sequels down our collective throats?
Surely it they can’t need the money as Pixar’s box office track record can’t be disputed so the any notion of a “safe” option holds water like 94 year old bladder. Licensing for Cars is massive, true, in fact probably more so than any other Pixar franchise, but for a studio so cherished for it’s ideas and heart, simply hurling another unnecessary sequel into multiplexes seems way too mercenary for such a progressive studio.
It’s not even a sense of goodwill. The original movie, while estheticly pleasing, wasn’t all that great in the first place and the the risible, Mater led, secret agent infested part two is comfortably the least of the studio’s output to date.
Cars 3 thankfully leaves the spy shenanigans wisely in the rear view in favour of a more sedate feel along the lines of the original film, but this is really only picking the lesser of two evils. While gently sweet, the most recent Cars movie leans back into the sports genre and deals with an aging Lightning McQueen on the outs (although the cars don’t visibly age so all the getting old jokes at McQueen’s expense fall as flat as a set of worn out tires), with younger, more advanced cars moving up the ranks and a massive, traumatizing crash taking him out of the game.
Taking huge chunks from the retired sports hero playbook (mostly the sixth Rocky film) McQueen’s long journey to get back on track (literally) is unfortunately that. Long. Really, really long.
Despite an amusing sidetrack into a demolition derby (populated by a brassy school bus voiced by Big Boo from Orange Is The New Black) and fun sidekick work by spunky trainer Cruz Ramírez, the first two thirds of the story drag as vastly unnecessary callbacks to previous characters and largely uninspired new faces keep the excitement levels down meaning the film flatly refuses to leave second gear.
Mercifully, on the metaphorical home straight, everything is just about saved by a late in the day plot twist that shifts things from Rocky Balboa into Creed territory which floors the accelerator and delivers a surprisingly touching finale.
However, no one should really be using the phrase “suprisingly touching” when using words to describe a Pixar joint, and that’s the real problem here as striving to simply not being Pixar’s worst while simultaneously improving the series is meager praise, but being merely satisfied with “just not being bad” is more something you’d expect to find in Dreamwork’s wheelhouse, not Pixar’s.
If more yet sequels to precious hits really are Pixar’s remit, then Incredibles 2 can’t get here soon enough to hopefully stop those gears grinding.