Movie Review: Cars 3

“Cars 3” is a typical Disney family movie with good vs. evil/bad/bully and a happy ending for everyone. The difference this movie had was the happy ending came with an unexpected twist. Do you still remember the movie “Cars” back in 2006? I watched it on Netflix 10 years after the first installment was out, and I was still very much entertained. Until now I can’t say that I’m familiar with the movie characters and story lines. All I know that whenever my kids get invited to birthday parties, they often come home with the face of Lightning McQueen, the Rust-eze race car number 95, on their goodie bags.

In 2017, Lightning McQueen was not as fast, as heroic, as amazing as he was. The movie opened with McQueen meditating before a race, joking around with his fellow veteran racers, and getting ready to take on the 500 laps. He was leading until right before the finish line a rookie racer, a new car dubbed Jackson Storm, went faster than McQueen did and won the race. McQueen was taken aback by the fact that a rookie beat him and he didn’t see it coming. Storm, being arrogant and such, bragged to the reporters about looking up to McQueen as his childhood hero and he suggested McQueen to just retire, because the race track now belonged to the newer and more modern cars.

Storm’s statement got me thinking: how old was Lightning McQueen actually? In one scene, it was stated that he was a childhood hero of a car-kid. In another scene, the soon-to-be his trainer, Cruz Ramirez, said that she had seen him racing on TV since her grandfather’s days. Was McQueen that old? Well, I guessed car age was supposed to be different than human age. After the shocking result of the race, McQueen went back to his hometown and tried to think through about the meaning of being old and needing to retire. His friend, Sally, encouraged him to go back to Rust-eze, which he did, only to find that Rust-eze was already sold to Sterling. Sterling as the new owner wanted McQueen to train like the rookies, with simulators and a dedicated trainer. There came the role of Cruz Ramirez, a female (although the name suggested it’s a male) racing car trainer who was responsible to increase McQueen’s speed to match Storm’s.

It’s interesting to see how McQueen training under Cruz, and to see Cruz exercising her claimed competences as a trainer. First of all, she’s not a racer herself, and that made her, I think, lacking the credibility to teach other cars to race. She might be good in theories, but I could tell that she lacked the intuitions and she couldn’t embrace the unknown factors in racing. That was shown when she accompanied McQueen practicing racing on the beach. Seeing her reminded me of the teachers I had back in school, who were never involved in any kind of industry but were supposed to teach us about industry and its complexities. McQueen and Cruz started to get to know each other and she admitted to him that she wanted to be a race car. She participated in a race once and right there she knew that she couldn’t do it. She asked McQueen how he knew that he was meant to be a race car. McQueen’s answer was a total gem: “I never thought that I couldn’t.” And that, people, was one of the best motivational quotes I’d ever heard coming from a cartoon character.

McQueen underwent several peculiar ways to gain back his confidence, including taking part in some village’s phenomenal race in the mud, and finding Smokey who was once a mentor to Doc, McQueen’s mentor. I particularly liked how Smokey and the other veteran cars encouraged McQueen to get his head back in the game by providing him with the basic training, i.e. driving in the middle of the woods without any headlamps on (they only relied on the moonbeam to show them the way), and driving through a herd of car-cows (I must say that it’s hilarious to see cars in the shape of cows. My kids and I rolled out with laughter all through this scene). During McQueen’s training with Smokey, Cruz was appointed to be his training partner and in doing so I believed she found again her long-forgotten passion for racing. Cruz unintentionally got a firsthand training on how to become a racer; a trainer who got trained by a real racer to be a real racer and not merely a teacher. That’s interesting.

The day of the racing arrived; McQueen, Cruz, and the rest went to Florida to participate in the racing which would determine what McQueen would be doing next. Would he lose and be forced into retirement, and have to spend the rest of his car life selling car-related cleaning products? Or would he win and be given other opportunities by Sterling as his new sponsor? Even right before the race started, McQueen hadn’t gotten back his confidence. He didn’t race wholeheartedly, was very much influenced by what Storm had been saying to him during the race to mess up with his head. The funny thing was, he suddenly decided that it was his time to step back and let someone who’s actually been prepared for the race to take his place. On the pit stop McQueen told his team to prepare Cruz to race for him. They quickly painted the number “95” on her, ignoring the protests and discouragement from Sterling, her boss, who kept saying that she’s supposed to be a trainer and not a racer. Second moral lesson here; don’t let anyone put you and your dreams down. We can do much more things than we can think of as long as we have the confidence.

So, to the end of the movie Cruz was racing in McQueen’s place. Before the finish line, she went body to body with Storm. She tried hard to ignore Storm’s mocking her as just a girl in the custom (kind of reminded me of the “Wonder Woman” movie), drifted with him, flipped over him, and won the race. McQueen and Cruz won the trophy and he confirmed himself as her trainer from now on, just like the late Doc did for him. Third moral of the story, know yourself and know when to let it go. I had expected the movie to end with McQueen winning the race and claiming back his long profound glory, but the twist went unexpectedly with Cruz shining as a rookie racer and McQueen volunteering to train her.

The plot holes were only when Rust-eze was suddenly sold to Sterling, and when it suddenly dawned on McQueen that he had unintentionally trained Cruz to be a racing car and not the other way around. I had suspected that Sterling also sponsored Storm and he just wanted money from both racers. I guessed I forgot that “Cars 3” was a children movie after all, and an ulterior motive would be hard to understand by children. And I didn’t expect McQueen’s realization would come so suddenly in the middle of the race when he was supposed to focus more on winning. Oh well, just like I said, the happy ending came with an unexpected twist. It was an okay movie for me, a wonderful movie for the kids. After accompanying the kids watching “Cars 3” and accompanying my husband watching a horror movie “Annabelle: Creation” yesterday, I’m determined to go back to my original taste of movie.

“Battleship Island” starring Song Joong Ki, I’m coming for you tomorrow!

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