“You may look sleek but I’m still the apple of every kids’ eye!” Photo: Walt Disney Studios

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) returns to compete in the new season of the Piston Cup, only to find himself upstaged by a modified racing car of the future, Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer). Following an unfortunate accident, McQueen is left to contemplate the remaining years of his career in an ever-changing world. What follows is an unexpected turn of events that will change the face of racing.

After the filler that is Mater’s – best friend to Lightning McQueen – secret agent stint in Cars 2, the story returns to its racing roots in a third installment that is both heartfelt and sentimental. In a bit of a role reversal from the first film, McQueen takes on the role of a mentor (similar to Doc Hudson in Cars) as he passes on his knowledge to his next generation protege: Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo).

Despite the hype of the modified cars, their actual inclusion in the film feels underwhelming as they are overshadowed by the emergence of Ramirez. Though it is essential to focus on the budding relationship between McQueen and Ramirez, it would have been nice to see more of these cars.

Cars 3 review
“Move aside McQueen, it’s time for a new female champion!” Photo: Walt Disney Studios

But it is refreshing to see a strong female character challenge the status quo in a franchise that has been very much male-dominated. Sally and Holly Shiftwell from the first two movies were only nominal female leads, being nothing more than secondary characters that served as love interests.

Alonzo’s Ramirez feels like an unconventional role model for girls, empowered by the idea (truth) that we girls can do anything we set out to do. I particularly like how McQueen takes on a supportive role at a pivotal moment in the film which allows Ramirez to seize the opportunity before her.

Considering that the first Cars movie was released in 2006, animation has improved by leaps and bounds since. The attention to detail is impeccable – for example, the abandoned ghost track sequence where the aged signboards and rusted gates look uncannily vivid. It was almost hard to discern if they had stuck the animated characters into a real-life footage of the tracks.

Cars 3 review
“My gut tells me everything I need to know. This analysis is handled.” Photo: Walt Disney Studios

While I applaud the effort to stay true to the auto-sports essence of the franchise, this is still an animation meant for children. The mechanical jargon and statistical analysis in the beginning were just confusing. Though it was meant to lend realism to the film, it might have helped if it were done in a lighter tone.

Kerry Washington, who voices analyst Natalie Certain, certainly doesn’t help in the statistical review as it felt like I was sitting through a briefing delivered by Olivia Pope. I was half expecting the president of the Piston Cup to appear and give Natalie a passionate kiss.

The standout voice star among the many different characters (both old and new), has to be Nathan Fillion’s Sterling. Aside from the car model that suits Fillion’s personality to a T, his voice is perfect for the portrayal of this timeless looking automobile billionaire. Perhaps it’s all that practice with being Richard Castle which gives him the effortless ability to deliver his lines with charm.

Despite the hits and misses, Cars 3 is an all-round entertaining film for any gender and any age, even if it is a far cry from the likes of Toy Story and Up.

Cars 3 opens in Singapore this Thursday, August 31.Tell us what you think of the movie!