Poor ole’ Lightning McQueen. Once the dominant racecar driver in the Piston Cup series, he now spends his days staring at his trophies, reading his old newspaper clippings, and watching classic race reruns on TV.
It’s downright depressing, but his last season on the circuit wasn’t successful, anyway. A new rookie named Jackson Storm was taking advantage of the latest technology to win every race, and some of Lightning’s long-time racing buddies – the ones he’d been bumping bumpers with for years – were retiring. Things went from bad to worse when Lightning suffered a season-ending crash, sending him back to Radiator Springs to ponder the future.
Lightning, though, isn’t the type of racecar that retires easily. No, he’s determined to make a comeback and reclaim the title.
Helping him get back in shape will be the energetic Cruz Ramirez, a personal trainer who, herself, once had dreams of racing in the Piston Cup.
Here’s what parents need to know about Cars 3:
1. It’s squeaky clean. Outside of a few car crashes in which everyone survives, there’s no violence. There’s also no coarse language – the worst we hear is one “butt” – and no sexuality/sensuality (unless you count a joke about “fast women,” which references cars). It is deservedly rated G. Please, Hollywood, give us more family-friendly content like this!
2. It continues the Hollywood female trend. I’ve lost count of how many recent family movies have had prominent heroines — Moana, Rogue One, Trolls, Zootopia and The Force Awakens come to mind – but Cars 3 gives us another one in Cruz, who plays a prominent role in the second half of the film. Lots has been written about this trend, but as a father of a daughter here’s two things I’ve enjoyed: 1) These new heroines aren’t always princesses, as least not in the traditional sense, and, 2) These are characters I don’t mind my little girl watching. That is, they haven’t been sexualized by the filmmakers.
3. It has quite a few life lessons. Parents can raise a number of questions with their kids: How do you react when you’re discouraged? (Lightning didn’t handle it so well.) Do you encourage your friends when they’re down? (Lightning’s friends sure did that with him.) Are you humble enough to admit when you’ve made a mistake and are wrong? (Lightning was.) For parents and even teens, there’s also a solid lesson about mentoring.
The film contains no explicit Christian content, but it does contain a story framework that I appreciated. Let me explain. Too many kids’ films imply that if you dream big and work hard, your dreams will come true! That’s not always the case in real life. Of course, they certainly will come true if they align with God’s plans. Sometimes, though, God puts a roadblock in our path for a reason. We can take solace knowing God is in control (Psalm 135:6, Luke 12:22-26). But back to my point: Cars 3 doesn’t end the way we expect it to end. I liked that.
4. It’s good – but not great. I didn’t enjoy Cars 3 as much as its predecessors, and I don’t think my sons did, either. Some of the supposed humorous scenes – specifically, one involving Lightning and Cruz racing on a beach – fell flat. Still, the movie started well and ended well, and I walked out of the theater with a smile.
5. It’s coupled with a clever Pixar short. With most Pixar movies, you have a “move before the movie.” The newest short is called Lou, and it tells the story of a playground bully who – thanks to some magical toys – learns not to be a bully. He also discovers that it’s more rewarding to give away toys than to take toys.
Cars 3 is rated G. Family-friendly rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
— Michael Foust