ByAntonio Ferme, writer at
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Antonio Ferme

Pixar has been clearly dominating the game for years. Almost every movie they've produced has been spectacular — but the one huge exception is the franchise, the weakest installments out of all 's movies. Much like Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 2 for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Cars films are far from awful yet are easily weaker than anything else the studio has pumped out.

In fact, Cars 2 was the first Pixar movie to score a rotten average on Rotten Tomatoes. But the company is hoping for a turnaround with Cars 3, which hits theaters June 16.

Movie Pilot's own Jon Negroni had mixed feelings but gave Cars 3 an overall positive review. Here's what other critics have to say about the newest animated blockbuster:

'The Best Entry In Pixar’s Weakest Franchise'

Many critics say that Cars 3 is the best film in the franchise, but that doesn't necessarily mean much. Eric Kohn from IndieWire calls it "the best entry in Pixar’s weakest franchise" and discusses how the movie was a pleasant surprise for him, but ultimately, it's not worth flocking to theaters over:

“'Cars 3' still lurches through an aimless middle section and, yes, runs out of gas before the credits roll, but it never completely derails the sense of a sharper, intelligent version of this otherwise familiar routine. ... Considering that it’s a second sequel in a less-than-revered franchise, it’s a minor miracle that 'Cars 3' hits the finish line with a fresh sense of purpose.

'A Finely Executed Product Rather Than An Inspiring Work'

Owen Gleiberman from Variety likewise points out that we will most likely come out satisfied with the third installment, but it isn't Pixar's usual brilliant cup of tea — and even says the movie should've been a straight-to-DVD sequel:

"'Cars 3' is a friendly, rollicking movie made with warmth and dash, and to the extent that it taps our primal affection for this series, it more than gets the job done. Yet in many ways it’s the tasteful version of a straight-to-DVD (or streaming) sequel. Audiences should come out satisfied, and in satisfying numbers, but the upshot is that this year’s Pixar film is a finely executed product rather than an inspiring work of animated artistry."

'A Gorgeous Paint Job, And Not Much At All Under The hood'

[Credit: Pixar]
[Credit: Pixar]

One thing Cars 3 definitely has going for it is the animation. When the Cars 3 teaser trailer was released, viewers were blown away by how stunning and realistic the visuals looked. Leah Greenblatt from Entertainment Weekly didn't deny the fact that the visuals were amazing, but that's not enough:

"[Director Brian] Fee steers Cars 3 like the sleek piece of movie machinery it is—a standard ride with a half-full tank, a gorgeous paint job, and not much at all under the hood."

Michael Rechtshaffen from The Hollywood Reporter also praised Cars 3 for its "splendid visuals," but concludes lightning (and Lightning) just doesn't strike:

"Like its predecessors, the film is visually quite splendid and, especially for an animated feature, stirringly well lit, most notably in a racing sequence set along a photo-realistic beach during golden hour and another on a vividly moonlit night.

"But despite its many winning characters and good intentions, Cars 3 functions mainly as a tenderly rendered, wish-you-were-here picture postcard to [Paul] Newman, whose absence, while affectionately noted, ultimately serves as a reminder why Lightning can never truly strike twice."

'Character-Driven And Serious-Minded'

[Credit: Pixar]
[Credit: Pixar]

While critics aren't calling Cars 3 a masterpiece by any measure, they are giving the Pixar film credit for being more serious in tone, weaving in thought-provoking themes. Don Kaye from Den of Geek says that this installment in the Cars franchise touches on some key themes that kids should be learning while not shoving it down the viewers' throats:

"More and more with Pixar films, you can really tell what is on the filmmakers’ minds, and in this case, Cars 3 sort of reexamines themes from the vastly superior Inside Out. But it also touches on the themes of earning respect, appreciating diversity, and valuing teamwork, although never in a way that’s too heavy-handed."

'In...The Pantheon With The Studio's Finest'

Some critics are more enthusiastic with Cars 3. Soren Anderson from the Seattle Times gives it glowing praise, even calling it one of the best Pixar movies ever:

"Cars is more overtly kiddie friendly and less substantial in terms of its storytelling. Cars 3, by contrast, is heartfelt and thoughtful. Solid storytelling, a longtime strength of the best Pixar pictures, elevates Cars 3 into the pantheon with the studio’s finest."

As you can see, critics have widely varying opinions. The movie currently holds a 63 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Depending on where the next batch of reviews stand, Cars 3 could be Certified Fresh. In the end, if you're a Pixar fanatic, you should probably head out to the theaters this weekend and gain your own opinion as the critics aren't going to give you a definite answer for this movie.


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