Cars 3 review: The animation giants Pixar return this summer, with the third instalment in their most lucrative – albeit if not most critically loved – franchise.

Cars 3 review, Awais Irfan.

Cars 3 review

After the studio switched gear and put Mater in the spotlight last time around (to bad results), the focus is very much back on Rookie sensation Lightning McQueen (voiced again by Owen Wilson). Only, he’s no longer a Rookie. And when McQueen finds his career challenged by younger, faster, more tech-savvy racer by the name of Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer), he will have to prove that his racing days are not over yet, seeking help from a new generation car herself, Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo).

As we’d expect from any Pixar affair, the animation is undoubtedly stunning. This is, yet again, masterclass technical work from the subsidiary of the House of Mouse. There are landscape scenes that look real and have a genuine grit to them, but even aside from this, the animation work bringing the Cars and this world to life is absolutely stellar. The voice work too is great, Wilson yet again provides warmth and charisma to McQueen and Hammer is an excellent addition to the cast as Storm. But it’s Alonzo that is the heart of the film, so bubbly and jovial – her euphoric charm is so infectious.

Cars 3 review

The Cars franchise, however, has never quite been the studio’s strongest endeavour – paling in comparison the likes of masterpiece films such as Toy Story, Ratatouille, Up, Inside Out and the list goes on. Although, it is safe to say that Cars 3 is more in-line with the first film than the second – the first was certainly a somewhat more enjoyable affair. Similarly to the original film, racing is back at the heart and core of this film and it’s those sequences that are the most fun and exciting to watch.

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There are undertones of an underdog story here, akin to the likes of Rocky, and whilst it’s a great direction to take the story, it’s unfortunately let down by the fact that there is just too much going on here. The premise feels more like it could span two films rather than just one. As a result, the narrative gets very bogged down and doesn’t feel as taut and cohesive as the film perhaps needs to it, winding in all sorts of directions and never quite feeling streamline and, excuse the pun if you will, never quite sticking to one lane. This, in turn, makes for a rather boring and slow first half. This lack of focus means there’s a lack of depth or nuance and the proceedings become rather tedious as a result.

Cars 3 review

However, the film gets back into gear about halfway through and puts pedal to the metal for a thoroughly enjoyable and sweet finale. A finale that nicely brings this franchise and the chapter of our beloved Lightning McQueen to a fitting conclusion but leaves room for the franchise to perhaps grow in new and exciting ways; with the bow tied on McQueen, maybe there’s room for the Cars franchise to get the much-needed kick of adrenaline in the future if it so wants – and seeing how lucrative these Cars films are, a fourth is almost a given at this point.

Cars 3 is a charming, sweet affair, if certainly a little askew and poorly paced.

Cars 3 review by Awais Irfan, July 2017.

Cars 3 is released in UK cinemas on Friday 14th July 2017.

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Cars 3