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REVIEW: ‘Cars 3’ one of the most family-friendly films you’ll ever see

June 16th, 2017 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: ‘Cars 3’ one of the most family-friendly films you’ll ever see

For years, Lightning McQueen dominated the Piston Cup circuit. He’d zoom past cars at will, celebrate in the winner’s circle, and then remind everyone that he ate “losers for breakfast.”

Today, though, our legendary champ is like so many other pro athletes who compete beyond their prime. He just doesn’t have it anymore.

Thanks to advances in technology, the newest cars are slicker, smarter and faster.

“The racing generation is changing,” we are told.

One car that has benefited from the changes is rookie Jackson Storm, who has won multiple races and reminds everyone of a younger Lightning McQueen. His speeds regularly top 210 mph. And Lightning’s? A mere 198.

The losses are embarrassing enough for Lightning, but things get even worse during one race when he blows a tire, flips several times and wrecks in what appears to be a career-ending crash.

Cars 3 (G) opens this weekend, recounting the latest exploits of such favorites as Lightning (Owen Wilson), Sally (Bonnie Hunt) and Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), along with a new cast of talking car characters.  

One of the newbies is Cruz (Cristela Alonzo), a racing wannabe-turned-personal trainer who has been given the assignment to get Lightning back on the road by using the same groundbreaking technology that has made Jackson Storm so dominant. She’s perky, yes, but also clueless, and Lightning is left wondering if he should just do it all alone.

Here’s the bad news about Cars 3: It’s not as good as its predecessors. But there’s plenty of good news: It’s still quite entertaining and is among the cleanest, most family-friendly films you’ll ever see.

It even comes with a few solid lessons about life.

Warning: spoilers!

Violence/Disturbing

Nothing, other than a few car wrecks (one involving Lightning, another involving a retired driver as seen in film footage, and still another in a demolition derby).

Sexuality/Sensuality

One passing joke about “fast women” (told in reference to a car). Nothing else.

Coarse Language

None. One reference to a car’s “butt” (bumper) during a race. Lightning also says, “life’s a beach, and then you drive”—while he’s on the beach.

Christian Images/Dialogue

None.

Life Lessons

Lightning McQueen’s reaction to his wreck—and his elimination from the Piston Cup series—is not unlike how we often react to adversity. He sulks. He sits around. He watches tapes of past races, thinking of what might have been. (He does all of this in his gray primer coat—his version of a bathrobe.)

It isn’t until his friends encourage him that his outlook on life changes. “I miss you Lightning,” one says. Essentially, they do what Scripture tells us to do: “Encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). That’s a good lesson for our kids.

Later, after Lightning talks down to Cruz and makes fun of her career choice, he apologizes and displays an impressive level of humility. Lightning’s ability to put others first, particularly Cruz, plays a key role in the film’s final minutes. There’s also a lesson about mentoring.

Worldview

Too often, Hollywood movies, particularly animated ones, carry a similar theme. It goes something like this: Dream big, never give up, and you’ll succeed. Some will say that’s what happens in Cars 3. But I would argue just the opposite. Cars 3 does not end the way we all guessed it would, and that’s good. This isn’t La La Land or even Star Wars (1977).

Sure, there’s a happy ending in Cars 3, but it’s not the one we imagined. I like that. Life doesn’t always work out the way we hoped it would, and often, there are detours and roadblocks. Yet we can take comfort in knowing that God is in control (Isaiah 14:24) and has a plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11).

Family-Friendly?

If only every animated film was this clean. There were no crude jokes. No potty humor. No coarse language. Thank-you, Pixar! I took my 9-year-old and 5-year-old sons and had no regrets. It’s family-friendly.

Thumbs Up … Or Down?

I didn’t laugh as much in this one as I did in Cars and Cars 2. The middle of the movie, in particular, is a bit dull. Perhaps I needed more Mater. But it recovers quickly and has a solid ending. This one gets a big “thumbs up.” There’s also a Pixar short film, prior to the movie, that has a nice anti-bullying message.  

Discussion Questions

1. Would you have made the same decision Lightning made at the end of the movie?  

2. Do you think it was difficult for Lightning to do what he did? Why or why not?

3. How does mentoring benefit young adults and teens? How does it benefit older adults?  

4. What do you think about the trend in movies with lead heroines?  

Entertainment rating: 3.5 out of 5. Family-friendly rating: 5 out of 5.

Cars 3 is rated G.