Cars is the franchise that keeps going for better or worse. When the original Cars film was released, it was generally recognized as Pixar’s first weak film, but then Cars 2 happened and the 12th Pixar movie was quickly accepted as the first terrible effort from one of the best animation studios out there. Cars 2 stripped away the heart and soul from the original movie and instead chose to focus on the antics of Mater, which was a big misstep. Cars eventually spawned a spin-off series with Planes and its sequel (produced by DisneyToon Studios), but it seemed like that might be the end of the juggernaut merchandising franchise. The moral of this story is sometimes you have to root for the underdog. Based on the track record for Cars and Planes, there should have been little or no hope for a decent outing for a third Cars movie – then the world was shocked.
It seemed like a great idea to exploit Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) in Cars 2 considering he was the breakout character in Cars, but Mater is pure comic relief. The heart of the first movie was a combination of Lightning McQueen’s development, breathtaking visuals, and a sweeping, emotional score from Randy Newman. Luckily, someone at Pixar must’ve realized this, because Cars 3 returns to the roots of what made the original film worth watching. In fact, Cars 3 races off in the exact same way as Cars. However, times have changed and despite many years of success for Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), next generation cars like Jackson Storm (Arnie Hammer) have taken over as top dogs. What follows is Lightning McQueen facing his limitations and trying to alter his future with the help of his new trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo).
There are so many aspects of Cars 3 that work so well. Whether you’re a Lightning McQueen fan or you latch on to newcomer Cruz Ramirez, you’ll find yourself rooting for both characters to get what they want in the race world. Along their journey, they find themselves returning to the roots of racing and Doc Hudson’s past glories, bringing nostalgia into the mix, which isn’t even a factor in the first two Cars movies. This opens the door to even more new characters based on real racing legends, making Cars 3 a true tribute to the entire sport of racing and those who paved the way. At the end of the day, the story isn’t groundbreaking, but the blend of nostalgia, heart, and humor make Cars 3 the best movie of the entire Cars world.
Cars 3 comes packed with a good amount of bonus features – enough to add in an extra bonus feature disc if you do decide to pick up a physical copy of the movie. Features range from short films, to behind-the-scenes featurettes, and plenty of promos. Here is the full list of bonus features for this release:
- Miss Fritter’s Racing Skoool – Enjoy blindsided testimonials from the Crazy 8’s, touting the transformative impact Miss Fritter’s Racing School has had in reshaping the direction of their lives
- Lou – When a toy-stealing bully ruins recess for a playground full of kids, only one thing stands in his way: the “Lost and Found” box.
- Let’s. Get. Crazy. – Get schooled in the world of demolition derby, the “rules” of figure 8 racing, and how Pixar puts the crazy in the Thunder Hollow Crazy 8 race. This piece is hosted by Lea DeLaria.
- Legendary – A close, historical look at the racing legends Wendell Scott and Louise Smith, whose tenacity and perseverance got them into the race even when they weren’t invited.
- Ready for the Race – Disney Channel’s Olivia Rodrigo and NASCAR Racer William Byron check out the Hendrick Motorsports campus to showcase how real-world race training influenced the filmmakers.
- World’s Fastest Billboard – Blink and you will miss all of the graphics and “car-ified” advertisements created by Pixar’s Art team to make the ”Cars 3” world as believable as possible.
- Cruz Ramirez: The Yellow Car That Could – Join Cristela Alonzo and the filmmakers on their journey to create a race-car trainer turned champion racer.
- Generations: The Story of “Cars 3” – For the story team, creating Lightning McQueen’s next chapter didn’t involve just a tune-up, but a complete overhaul.
- My First Car – A collection of illustrated first-car stories as narrated by members of the “Cars 3” cast and crew. “A Green Car on the Red Carpet with Kerry Washington,” “Old Blue,” and “Still in the Family.”
- 5 Deleted Scenes – Deleted scenes include “The Boogie Woogie,” “The Jars of Dirt,” “Lugnut,” “The Bolt,” and “More Than New Paint.”
- Cars To Die(cast) For – Take a look at the phenomenon of die-cast toy collecting and the more than 1,000 unique designs that exist in the Cars universe.
- Commentary – Brian Fee (Director), Kevin Reher (Producer), Andrea Warren (Co-Producer) and Jay Ward (Creative Director)
There’s no denying that a lot of the bonus features for Cars 3 comes off feeling like filler material, but there are a few standout features worth watching. Miss Fritter’s Racking Skoool is wildly funny and allows even more screen time for one of the best underdeveloped characters in any of the Cars movies. Cruz Ramirez: The Yellow Car That Could gives plenty of love to the character that could spawn a whole new series of Cars films. Legendary pays homage to two real life racers that provided the inspiration for Louise Nash and River Scott. Finally, as a collector of toys, I was happy to see Cars to Die(cast) For and recognize that Pixar is very aware of the amazing merchandise opportunities that have been available with the Cars world. Also, like every Pixar theatrical short, Lou is not to be missed.
Cars is not for everyone. Until I was able to see Cars Land out in Disney California Adventure, Cars and Cars 2 were just necessary additions in my effort to own every Pixar film. While I’ve come to appreciate the first film, the sequel is still just as bad as it was the first time around, but at least there are some fun moments throughout it. Cars 3 is the best of the series and the best part is you only have to watch the original movie to be able to understand what is happening in this one – and you won’t be sorry you spent time watching it. If you’re a Pixar completist, adding Cars 3 to your collection is a must, but I would also urge those who are on the fence to give it a shot either by bringing it home on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD or waiting for it to inevitably hit Netflix in the future.