Pixar are a studio that have well and truly earned a place in many of our hearts, having made not only some of the best animated films ever but just some of the best films ever, period. Well, the studio have made their annual return to this year's Edinburgh Film Festival with their latest: Cars 3.

Following the studio's huge misstep with Cars 2 - what is, undoubtedly, one of their worst films to date - Cars 3 acts as perhaps an apology for the disastrous predecessor and a close(?) - finally? - on the chapter of Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson returns yet again with his trademark "wows" and "ka-chows" in abundance). The studio clearly listened to the fans' complaints with the 2011 sequel and have returned to their roots of racing and underdogs for a story more in-line with the first film - which, say what you will about it, I find to be quite an enjoyable film. However, perhaps it returns a little too much to roots, because Cars 3's biggest downfall is also its biggest strength; sure enough, the film puts the focus back on McQueen and the racing and not anymore of that nonsensical spy lumber but it can also feel almost like a lazy, identical rehash of the 2006 original at times too.

The story of Cars 3 is certainly by no means its strong suit. It's an idiosyncratic underdog story that lacks verve and that spot of lauded Pixar heart we've come to expect from the minds behind the likes of finesse such as Ratatouille, Inside Out, Up and what have you - trust a studio with such few blemishes on record to plunder by creating a universe out of anthropomorphic vehicles: poor show, Pixar. The first film never elicited a sequel, and neither that another follow-up; this has become a set of movies with the mental acumen of a 10-year-old's first endeavour into "screenwriting" - certainly paling in comparison to the studio's aforementioned beloved classics - but money talks and this franchise is the studio's prized cash-cow that rakes the profits in so here are we are. We have a third film and it's not the best. However, where Cars 3 really falters is its screenplay.

This is such an overstuffed film, with too much going for its good own good and director Brian Fee tries his hand pulling off an impressive juggling act here only to fail quite horribly and create a mess instead. Cars 3 doesn't just aim to be Pixar's Rocky, it aims to be Pixar's Rocky IV and Creed as well. There's a lazy irreverence here for taking time to craft a concise, cohesive narrative and genuine, compelling characters - the usual suspects for what differentiates the weaker Pixar flicks from the top-tier ones. It's sloppy and mawkish. As a result, there's no real compelling edge to any of the characters and we find ourselves slowly drifting to other topics: what we're having for tea; which comic-book endeavour we're watching on the weekend; what the drama and gossip from work is. Needless to say, the film becomes boring. We can try to eschew this all we want but, with such thinly-developed characters engaging in conversation and training, the proceedings begin to drag and becomes so forgettable that our subconscious need to mull over other thoughts on-hand takes over.

The dialogue is stilted, the character development is sloppy, the jokes are unfunny, so tedium is quick to blanket this film when it starts to waver in its second act - once all of the excitement of the story setup dries out. Things pick up again towards the finale when we, once again, get back to McQueen's comeback on the race tracks but, by this point, the story has all but lost us and we're merely there for the excitement of watching a good race sequence. Again, this film rests its shoulders on such thin characters that are merely competent and passable enough to service the needs of the story - barely - but that lack the nuance of some of the studio's most iconic characters and its shortcomings are due to this. There is a lack of much originality to the story too, feeling very much like a carbon copy of the original in its latter stages - nostalgia plays here for those that grew up with the first one in 2006 but it quickly wears thin and feels lazy. 

In the end, Cars 3 isn't awful. Expectedly, the visuals are gorgeous and this is such a beautifully, seamlessly animated film that looks stunning. There is the occasional joke that lands too and the odd moment of heart here and there that will work too. It's certainly a step above its predecessor, but given that what came before was Cars 2, it's not much of an accolade to hold high. The best way to describe Cars 3 is like a learner driver trying to clutch control on an upward hill: difficult, shaky at first and slow to get going, but once it moves, it's going competently enough to be fine. The voice performances are certainly great, with Wilson tickling the ivories once more in a role so perfectly tailored for his voice; Armie Hammer brings a nice sarcastic wit and presence to Jackson Storm and Cristela Alonzo lights the effervescent Cruz up with such an infectious charm. If this is certainly Pixar's last bow with this franchise, it's not a bad final whistle. But not the best either.

Whilst it certainly cranks up the gear from prior instalments, Cars 3 lacks any real compelling edge to be anything more than serviceable.

About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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