The good news first: Cars 3, the third Pixar movie about racing cars, is much more like the original film (2006) than the 2011 sequel that jumped the track. The new animated film has the heart, fun, and action of the original film while allowing the hero to evolve and introducing interesting new characters.
In the original, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) makes the transition from a brash, hot-shot racer who doesn’t need anyone to part of a supportive, loving community. In Cars 3, McQueen is starting to lose his edge and feeling not only old, but also realizing the vacuum left in his life by the departure of his mentor, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman).
In the quest to reinvent himself, he is supported by his old friends but meets new characters such as perky trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), wise Smokey (Chris Cooper), and rival Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer). The journey is unpredictable and, of course, amusing.
Lightning’s breakthrough is learning how Doc Hudson valued the contribution he made to the younger racer’s career and seizing the opportunity to pass on what he has learned to a new generation. He continues to compete and face new challenges, but he finally acknowledges that it is not all about him.
There is, of course, the obligatory big race that will determine Lightning’s future, but the twist there shows how much he has grown and learned about himself.
The film provides a reminder to those of us who are leaders that investing in others is a vital task. Each of us can point to mentors who shared their experiences, walked alongside us, and then pushed us out on our own. This is how the church has fostered leaders down through the years from Jesus and his disciples, to Barnabas and Paul, to Paul and Timothy, and on to today.
Cars 3 is good fun for both children and adults without the rude humor found in many animated films today. Lou, the obligatory lead in short film from Pixar, is worth watching as well.