When we rejoin the gang, Lightning is on the racing circuit and having a great year. Once the young, hotshot rookie, he has become the elder statesman of the sport on top of his game. Suddenly a new, younger model named Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer; The Man from U.N.C.L.E) comes from behind to surprise Lightning and his fellow racers and upends the sport of car racing. With his new aerodynamic design and updated technology, Jackson storm can achieve speeds Lightning McQueen could only ever dream of.
Suddenly, Lightning's competitors start retiring and he sees himself coming in later and later at the finish line as Jackson Storm leads a new generation of racing cars to victory. Pressured to retire Lightning pushes himself too far and ends up crashing at the last race of the season. He must then decide if he is going to come back and face these faster cars or quit. He ultimately goes on a journey with his "trainer" Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo; The Angry Birds Movie) to regain his glory and try to win again. Spurred on by the deal he makes with his new owner, Sterling (Nathan Fillion; Castle), Lightning must push himself farther than ever or retire forever.
Back are all the characters we loved from the first two films, though Mater has a lesser role this time around. The cast does a fine job with what they have to work with but sadly that isn't all that much. Wilson is the Lightning we remembered and the flashback scenes with Doc Hudson are enjoyable. Alonzo doesn't quite make the grade as I didn't feel she was emotive enough but Fillion was an excellent, if not a predictable, choice to play Sterling.
The animation is up to the high Pixar standard and the quality is excellent but the 3D isn't anything special and could probably be skipped. The soundtrack by veteran composer Randy Newman (Toy Story) was disappointing and distracting. Gone is the Rascal Flats version of the upbeat "Life is a Highway" only to be replaced by less distinct songs and at one point I even felt as though I was listening to a snippet of the Star Wars soundtrack.
The film drags at points and doesn't bring the same smile or level of humor from the original. The state of the art sequences kind of reminded me of the waiting area for test track at Epcot and, while it's cool to look at, it isn't necessarily new if you've been on the ride. Of course, the ending is cliche and can keep the door open for another film in the series but I'm hoping they will let Lightning McQueen (Spoiler alert!) retire in peace.
Better than the second film but not as good as the first, Cars 3 is still an uplifting story that will probably resonate with little kids. It also gives us a new, female racecar to emulate in what is clearly the year of the female.
I think its time Lightning takes his last victory lap and call it a night.