Cars 3 just about saved from the scrap yard by a few fun moments

Cars 3 wants to be a stirring comeback tale of a champion racing car that is not quite done yet, but it is hard to care deeply for talking vehicles.
Cars 3 wants to be a stirring comeback tale of a champion racing car that is not quite done yet, but it is hard to care deeply for talking vehicles.PHOTO: DISNEY/PIXAR

REVIEW / ANIMATION

CARS 3 (PG)

109 minutes/Opens tomorrow/2.5/5 stars

The story: Champion racing car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) and others of his generation are starting to lag behind technologically souped-up upstarts such as Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer). McQueen is assigned a coach, Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo), by his new owner and he has to win an upcoming major race - or be reduced to being a product endorsement figurehead.

The previous film, Cars 2 (2011), was a globetrotting affair that imagined cars as spies. Um, right.

The third instalment does away with that far-fetched conceit to focus on the more plausible storyline of talking, self-racing cars.

That right there is the problem.

Pixar has given us talking toys (Toy Story, 1995), talking animals (Finding Nemo, 2003) and even talking emotions (Inside Out, 2015). But talking cars remain the least persuasive creation in its oeuvre.

Cars 3 wants to be a stirring comeback tale of a champion who is not quite done yet, but it is hard to get revved up enough to care deeply for McQueen and the other vehicles.

It does not help that Wilson sounds too placid and laidback to voice a character who is a lightning- fast racer.

Also, McQueen might get upset that he is being overtaken by more powerful models, but that is exactly what you would expect with cars in the real world.

This is particularly so in Singapore, where embracing new and improved vehicles is the norm, given the certificate of entitlement system, where cars are often scrapped after 10 years or less.

There are a few fun moments, though, which prevent Cars 3 from being a movie for the scrap heap, such as when McQueen and his coach, Ramirez, inadvertently get roped into a demolition derby featuring a school bus on steroids.

It takes a while for McQueen to finally come to terms with his, er, mortality and realise that he can still play an important role.

The acceptance arrives in a too-tidy conclusion, which gives him his cake and lets him eat it too. That is, if cars could eat.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2017, with the headline 'Saved from the scrap yard by a few fun moments'. Print Edition | Subscribe