Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Cars 3

Year 9, Day 199 - 7/18/17 - Movie #2,693 - VIEWED ON 6/26/17

BEFORE:  Yeah, so I watched this one way back in June, about three weeks ago, when I started the whole animation block, but before I realized exactly HOW many films I was missing out on by not watching them on Netflix.  So I added (nearly) everything that was available to me into the plan, whether those films were on Netflix, Amazon or Academy screeners, and that forced a re-organization of the plan.  For linking purposes, this film then got moved to the back end of the pack, but honestly since I'm about 24 hours away from flying to San Diego, it didn't hurt to NOT have to watch a movie last night - instead I could pack, read some comic books and clear some shows off the DVR.  I think I can still squeeze one more film in tonight, since I usually don't sleep the night before I travel - I stay up and leave for the airport around 4 am to catch my 8 am direct flight that gets me in to S.D. around noon.  By the time I get to the convention center tomorrow I'm going to be already exhausted, and then I'll have to carry my merchandise from the UPS store to our booth, set up the booth, and work a 3-hour shift on Preview Night.  But hey, that's the job, and I haven't found a better way to get there and get everything set up.  Now, the rest of this post will continue, mostly as I wrote it, back in late June:

Now I know that programming this week of recent animated films was a good idea - because while at the movie theater to see "Cars 3",  I got to see the previews for the animated films coming out later this year, and I'm only going to fall further and further behind unless I keep crossing the animated films of 2016 and 2017 off my list.  Now, most of them seem really horrible, but before "Cars 3" I was shown clips from: "Despicable Me 3", "The Lego Ninjago Movie", "The Emoji Movie", "Coco" (and the new "Frozen" Christmas-themed short that will precede it), "Ferdinand", and "The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature".  Umm, thanks, but I still haven't seen the first "Nut Job" film yet.

Going to the theater this year so far has been all about choices - do I go see "Wonder Woman" or "The Mummy"?  (Made the right choice there...) Do I go see the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" film, or just stay home?  Do I go see "Cars 3" or "Despicable Me 3", which opens later this week?  Well, I've landed on "Cars 3" out of those two choices, mostly because one works with my chain, for linking purposes, and the other one doesn't.  (Or does it?  I've got to remember to investigate this - I'm still 3 days short on my chain, it would be great to add in another 1 or 2 films...)

Screw it, I've made my choice, I've landed on a chain of animated films that gets me CLOSE to where I need to be, so all I need to do is take a couple days off in early July, and things will line up like I want them to.  So Bonnie Hunt carries over from "Zootopia", if I've done this correctly.  (EDIT: Nope, after changing things around, now John Ratzenberger carries over from "The Good Dinosaur")

Another Monday night out at the movies (though I'm probably posting this on Wednesday).  Hey, it's OK to have popcorn for dinner, right?  Corn is a vegetable, after all.  And that movie-theater butter is really just hydrogenated soybean oil, but soybeans are vegetables too, right?  So I'm eating healthy!

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Cars 2" (Movie #1,067)

THE PLOT: Lightning McQueen sets out to prove to a new generation of racers that he's still the best race car in the world.

AFTER:  The new Pixar short film "Lou" preceded the feature - I thought this was a cute, touching film set in a schoolyard that also had a pertinent anti-bullying message, but my boss didn't like this short, he thought it was quite forgettable.  I strongly disagree with that.

Welcome back to the world of "Cars", where (as people have speculated) the human race has died out, cars have become sentient, and have found a way to reproduce and repair themselves, despite having no hands or ability to reason.  And if you've been turned off by the horrible aberration that was "Cars 2" - Hey, they're all cars, and spies, too! - this can be seen a return to form for the franchise.

My boss saw the film last week with his 4-year old son, and also posted his review - he said there was way too much talking and philosophizing about racing, and not enough racing. In a sense he's right, because it should be "Show, don't tell", the depiction of action over the describing of it.  But the film can't be just one long race, or even two or three races, there has to be some down-time in between.  Bill also left after the demolition derby sequence, so he missed the final race, and therefore the whole message of the film.

Speaking of messages, the film goes through quite a few of them - at first Lightning has this over-emphasis on winning, so it seems for a while like the message is going to be about winning being everything, or perhaps he'll learn over the course of the film that it isn't, and that will be a form of character growth.  This would echo the learning curve in "Talladega Nights", where Ricky Bobby lives by the mantra "If you're not first, you're last" and then comes to learn that this was a horrible piece of advice his father gave him when he was drunk or stoned - turns out you can finish second or third and that's still a victory of sorts.  Though I have to question the depicted repeated "pranking" of the winner of each race by the second-place finisher - Pixar, is this really a good example to set for the kids?

(And I hate to mention it, but we're not supposed to place too much emphasis on winning where kids are concerned.  We're supposed to make all the kids feel included, from the physically fit ones right on down to the ones with disabilities, and also the hyperactive spazzes who lack the focus to play sports properly.  ALL the kids get participation trophies these days, so maybe an animated film where winning is everything should have a slightly different focus, that's all.  Please continue.)

Then it seemed like the message of the film was going to be something about growing old and retiring gracefully - the next generation of race cars comes along and they're just plain faster, more energy efficient or less wind resistant or something - it's all very technical - but Lightning's top speed is like 195, and the new character, Jackson Storm, can go 207 mph easily.  So Lightning sees a lot of his friends retire from the sport, and figures that he needs to either improve, or go out on top.  Either way, he's got to win this next race in Florida - because if you're not first, you're last - in order to stay in the game.  So it seemed like they were heading toward a message about getting off the stage while you still have some dignity (I wonder if this represents the way that Owen Wilson feels about younger actors like Zac Efron, Channing Tatum and the Hemsworth brothers, who seem to be getting all the male roles he used to be offered...)

Then Lightning goes off to train, and learns that his younger, female, corporate sponsor-appointed trainer always wanted to be a racecar herself, but she walked away from her one chance to do that, due to lack of confidence.  But during the unconventional training process (which involves taking speed trials on the beach, getting involved in a demolition derby, and learning to drift on an old dirt track) it seems like maybe the female racer, Cruz Ramirez, has what it takes, after all.  During the drifting, another weird mantra arises - "you've got to turn right to go left" which was probably deemed to be too confusing to the viewers who are too young to drive.  Then it seems like the message might turn out to be something about how when people try to put you down or say you can't do something, you can turn that around as use it as extra motivation.

There's a lot of time spent in the middle with Lightning trying to re-connect with the memory of his mentor, Doc Hudson.  It's been mentioned that they didn't just re-use lines that Paul Newman recorded for the first "Cars" film - though that would have been totally OK, his character is only seen in flashback (and anyway, Lucasfilm re-used X-Wing fighter footage from "A New Hope" in "Rogue One", I spotted it right away...) they went back to the original recording sessions with Paul Newman and found outtakes that they could use, since Newman was telling racing stories all the time, on the down-time in between takes.  That stuff is probably golden.  They also had to find a sound-alike for the VW bus that was originally voiced by George Carlin, and they re-cast Chick Hicks, the car that was voiced by Michael Keaton in the first film, I guess Keaton wasn't available.

(Some of the voice casting doesn't make much sense to me - I try to identify the actors with distinctive voices whenever I watch an animated film.  Artie Hammer's voice is not very distinct, nor is Nathan Fillion's.  They're both bland, monotone and practically interchangeable.  I can only guess that actors with more distinct voices might have been cast, and then backed out of the project.  I could imagine that the corporate CEO car named "Sterling" could have been played better by, say, Jon Hamm, and considering that on "Mad Men" he worked for the agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, maybe this  was who they had in mind in the first place.)

Finally, with all the back-and-forth over who's training whom - I suppose this is to be expected when the trainer character is younger than the athlete, it's inevitable that in order to show he's got more experience than her, they end up sort of switching places - the real message of the film emerges, which is that there's nothing preventing a girl from being a racer, or being whatever she wants to be.  And that our limitations are mostly self-imposed (umm, except for the ones that aren't).  The audience gets there about 5 minutes before Lightning does, but when he finally sees the light and figures out that he can still race, but also gradually shift himself into more of a training/mentoring position on a race team, it's a brilliant revelation.  It satisfies all of his navel-gazing about whether he can retire on his own terms, it pays tribute to the mentor that he lost, and it helps a younger character find her own way.

Now, the cynical side of me wonders if this was done to get more young girls interested in a movie franchise that was very boy-centric.  Someone at Pixar finally woke up and realized there was a simple way to potentially double their audience - prior to this, girl "Cars" characters only played racers girlfriends or support staff.  Finally a girl racer character appears, and whatever the motivation is behind it, I just want to say that it's about damn time.  

The uplifting nature of the ending really stood out, possibly because I just finished watching three weeks of depressing films mostly about death and destruction.  I still have questions about the "Cars" universe - why are there handles on their doors if there are no humans to ride inside of them?  Why are there eyes on the windshields, but not on the headlights?  And how DO the cars reproduce, anyway?  Scratch that, maybe there are some questions I'd rather not have answered.

Also starring the voices of Owen Wilson (last seen in "Zoolander 2"), Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper (last seen in "Demolition"), Nathan Fillion (last seen in "Serenity"), Armie Hammer (last seen in "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."), Larry the Cable Guy (last heard in "Cars 2"), Tony Shalhoub (last seen in "Heartburn"), Kerry Washington (last seen in "Against the Ropes"), Lea DeLaria (last seen in "The First Wives Club"), Margo Martindale (last seen in "Mother's Day"), Paul Newman (last seen in "Somebody Up There Likes Me"), Cheech Marin (last seen in "Planet Terror"), Katherine Helmond (last seen in "Family Plot"), Paul Dooley (last seen in "Breaking Away"), Bob Costas (last seen in "The Paper"), Darrell Waltrip (last heard in "Cars 2") Bob Peterson (also carrying over from "The Good Dinosaur"), Ray Magliozzi, Tom Magliozzi, Isiah Whitlock Jr. (last seen in "Gremlins 2: The New Batch"), Lloyd Sherr, Jenifer Lewis, Jerome Ranft and cameos from Kyle Petty, Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon, Humpy Wheeler, Junior Johnson, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Darrell Wallace Jr., Daniel Suarez, Ray Evernham, Shannon Spake, Lewis Hamilton, Michael Wallis.

RATING: 6 out of 10 endorsement deals

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