Susan Granger’s review of “Cars 3” (Pixar Animation/Disney)
If you thought it was weird seeing a young Carrie Fisher and resurrected Peter Cushing in “Star Wars: Rogue One,” wait ‘till you hear Paul Newman’s gruff voice as Doc Hudson in outtakes from the first “Cars” outing in 2006.
This third installment begins as the current champion, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), is trounced by a new, sleek, black-with-purple headlights “tech” car, Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer), who gloats, “I can’t believe I get to race Lightning McQueen in his farewell season.”
Realizing “the racing world is changing,” following a fiery crash, discouraged Lightning discovers that his Rust-eze sponsorship is now owned by smarmy Sterling (voiced by Nathan Fillion), who wants him to become a racing brand.
Eager to race in the Florida 500, Lightning reports for training at the high-octane site where Jackson Storm toned up. That’s where he meets Cruz Ramirex (voiced by Cristela Alonzo), a peppy performance coach who refocuses his angry outbursts with “Use that!” endeavoring to increase his speed from 198 mph to 210 mph.
When that doesn’t work, Lightning goes in search of Doc Hudson’s legendary guru, Smokey (voiced by Chris Cooper).
After Paul Newman’s death in 2008, Pixar decided to eliminate, rather than re-cast the role of Doc Hudson in “Cars 2” (2011). Now, Newman’s mentor legacy has been revived with new images and repurposed vocals.
Directed by veteran storyboard artist/animator Brian Fee from a script by Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich and story by Fee, Ben Queen, Eyal Podell and Jonathan E. Stewart, it pokes fun at our culture’s reliance on trendy self-help mantras, introduces some female empowerment and attempts to reconcile the reality of graceful aging.
Back in Radiator Springs, there are glimpses of McQueen’s girlfriend Sally (voiced by Bonnie Hunt) with comic relief from the buck-toothed tow-truck Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy).
And this feature is preceded by a seven-minute short: “Lou” about the comeuppance of a schoolyard bully.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Cars 3” is a sentimental 6, as the anthropomorphic vehicles take more laps around the cinematic track.