Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Cars 3

“The Glass Castle” is also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

Disney/Pixar’s “Cars” series returns to form after the spy movie/idiot plot misfire of the previous installment. Red racecar Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) once again takes center stage at the heart of “Cars 3.” This time he finds himself in a similar situation to that of his mentor Doc Hudson (voice of Paul Newman) in the first movie: He’s the older car, and a brand new breed of younger, faster cars are on their way to taking his place at the top of the racing world.

Not that McQueen is going down without a fight. After being shown up in a race by a hotshot young car named Jackson Storm (voice of Armie Hammer), McQueen is devastated. Adding to the pressure is an ultimatum from Sterling (voice of Nathan Fillion), the new owner of his sponsor, Rust-Eze: Either win the next race or retire into a second career of commercials and guest appearances as the spokescar for Rust-Eze. McQueen wants to avoid this at all costs.

To get himself back on top, McQueen goes to Sterling’s training center. It’s there where he meets Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo), a fiery young trainer who helps her trainees push through their mental boundaries in order to reach peak performance. The challenge is that McQueen’s problem isn’t as much mental as it is physical—he just doesn’t have the horsepower to compete with the newer cars of today.

There’s an old chestnut of a joke that states that those who can’t do teach, and those who can’t teach—they teach gym. Cute, but untrue. The main theme in “Cars 3” is the teacher/student relationship, and how having the right mentor to provide the best advice and guidance can make all of the difference. This notion is best personified in the character of Smokey (voice of Chris Cooper), an old pickup truck who trained Doc Hudson back in his heyday. Not getting the answers he needs at Sterling’s training center, McQueen seeks out Smokey to train him. Being a pickup truck, Smokey was never a race car himself. That doesn’t change the fact that the car with the most knowledge of racing and training is this old pickup. It goes to show that you should never judge a book by its cover and great ideas can come from anyone, regardless of how they look on the outside.

To call Smokey’s training methods unorthodox would be fairly accurate, particularly if the high tech simulations at Sterling’s training center are the benchmark for modern race training. Not sure if this was intentional, but I was reminded of the training montage in “Rocky IV,” in which Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) trains by chopping wood in the snow and using what he can find around an old farm house, while his Russian opponent Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) trains with sophisticated, high tech equipment. I also chuckled a bit when Doc Hudson was referred to as “Hud”—a reference to an excellent, triple Oscar winning movie from 1963 in which Paul Newman played the title character, named Hud. This one I’m sure was intentional.

A racing movie is nothing without great racing sequences, and “Cars 3” has them in droves. Anyone who has experienced the thunderous power of a racecar first hand knows what it’s like to hear the roar and feel the vibrations run through you. Director Brian Fee gets us into to the racing action, both in the cars and on the track, up close and personal so we can feel it like we’re there. This movie should receive an Oscar nomination for sound design in doing a brilliant job of capturing the raw power of a racing engine. Play this movie loud enough and your seat will vibrate. Buy it on Amazon: Cars 3 [Blu-ray].

Also New This Week

The Glass Castle

It’s amazing how many movies based on true stories of childhood struggles and difficult family life feel the exact same as every other movie about childhood struggles and difficult family life. By this point it’s a formula: Father must be abusive and/or alcoholic (usually both); mother must be fearful, non-existent, or ineffectual; child must be well-grounded and mature beyond his/her years and can’t wait to escape it all. It’s like “The Glass Castle” took the screenplays for “Angela’s Ashes” and “The Prince of Tides,” put them in a blender, and used the mixture to make this movie. I don’t even need to get into the cliché plot details because I pretty well just described them, plus if you’ve seen one other movie of this type, you’ve seen this one.

The performances, particularly by Woody Harrelson as the drunk, abusive father and Brie Larson as the older version of the daughter who has to come to terms with her upbringing later in life, are excellent. They are, however, not enough to save this movie from being a completely derivative, been there/seen that hack job with story beats that you can use to set your watch. Save two hours and seven minutes of your life and Skip it.

More New Releases: “Overdrive,” about two car thief brothers who wind up on the bad side of a local crime boss in the south of France, starring Scott Eastwood and Freddie Thorp; “Darkness Rising,” about siblings who face an evil presence in their old family home, starring Katrina Law and Ted Raimi; “Killing Ground,” a couples' camping trip turns into a frightening ordeal when they stumble across the scene of a horrific crime; “Gun Shy,” action-comedy about a wealthy rock star doing battle against the kidnappers who took his wife, starring Antonio Banderas and Olga Kurylenko; and “Ingrid Goes West,” about a social media stalker who takes things to an extreme with the internet celebrity with whom she’s obsessed, starring Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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