Cars 3 (2 stars)

Cars 3

EIFF 2017: Armie Hammer joins Owen Wilson in another disappointing entry in the Pixar franchise

'It's always good to try something new!' squeaks a car during the celebratory finale of Cars 3. In the context of such a by-the-numbers sequel, it's a line very much against the grain in what seems little more than a rudimentary cash-grab from director Brian Fee. Pixar have been a reliable source of quality children's films but the Cars sequels have tarnished the undeniable appeal of that brand.

Cars 3 abandons the spy-themed, globe-trotting nonsense of the previous entry (the first Pixar film not to be nominated for an Oscar), rebooting as a redemption story / sports movie that finds racing car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), once the new kid on the block, in danger of being eclipsed by upstart rival Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer).

And that, in a nutshell, is everything that Cars 3 offers in terms of plot. It's basically one long training montage, from about ten minutes in until ten minutes from the end. While the first film made a virtue of taking a detour from the racetrack, this has McQueen undergo high-tech training, then sharpen his skills on a beach, or in a demolition derby, interspersed with pauses for racing tips and motivational speeches – substituting the relentless levels of a video-game in place of an involving story.

It works best as a brochure promoting state-of-the-art animation; routine chases are enlivened by vibrant textures, while the gleaming settings are ingeniously rendered to catch a child's eye. There's also a souped-up score by Randy Newman to provide an emotional guide-track. But if Cars 2 was far too whimsical in its attempt to place cornball tow truck Mater at the hub of the narrative, then Cars 3 goes too far the other way, rendering McQueen's obsessive need for speed as a dull, straightforward lunge for the finish-line.

Screened on Sun 25 Jun as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2017. General release from Fri 14 Jul.

Cars 3

  • 2 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 1h 42min
  • U
  • Directed by: Brian Fee
  • Cast: Armie Hammer, Nathan Fillion, Owen Wilson, Kerry Washington
  • UK release: 14 July 2017

Lightning (Wilson) is challenged by new car on the block, Jackson Storm (Hammer). The least interesting Pixar franchise rumbles on in a rudimentary cash-grab which is basically a training montage in search of a story, and Randy Newman’s score can’t save it from being a dull lunge for the finish line.