Cars 3 – When Lightning McQueen loses to rookie, Jackson Storm, he is pressured to retire just like his fellow veterans but not wanting to give up so easily, he desperately tries to compete with the new generation of racers. Helped by enthusiastic trainer, Cruz Ramirez he attempts to get up to speed but struggles to come close to his new peers. Looking into the life and motivations of his former mentor, Doc Hudson, gives Lightning a new-found drive to win but with the new cars being kitted out with new technology, does Lightning stand a chance of beating them?

Cars 3 (2017) – Director: Brian Fee

Is Cars 3 appropriate for kids?

By Source, Fair use,

Rating U

Running Length: 102 mins

Starring: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Armie Hammer

Genre: Animated


Pixar’s sequels have always been met with trepidation, ‘Toy Story 2’ was a huge hit which led into the equally loved ‘Toy Story 3’; whereas ‘Cars 2’ did not reach such dizzying heights of success with a bizarre espionage plot involving the hapless Mater besting dangerous criminals. ‘Cars 3’ has struggled to garner much praise from critics but thankfully it brings everything back down to Earth with a plot about racing cars.

What made the original ‘Cars’ so universally loved was its ability to balance both plot and characterisation. Radiator Springs is full of colourful characters and enough of them were given screen time to make it more than just car racing. Unfortunately this balance hasn’t been seen since in the franchise since and ‘Cars 3’ is disappointing due to its preoccupation with winning with a capital ‘W’; beloved characters barely get any screen time (even fan favourite, Mater), and the growth seen in Lightning in the previous movies has been put aside; it’s all about the winning! Lightning’s mentor from ‘Cars’, Doc Hudson (voiced by the late Paul Newman), is crowbarred in to give the plot a bit of extra oomph (with dialogue cobbled together from previous recorded footage) but it never feels genuine and the pussy-footing around what happened to Doc is something that kids won’t understand or follow. Yes, there is a such a thing as subtlety but no character will put a finger on why Doc isn’t there which smacks of confusing coyness.

While animated racing cars will always be of interest to a large number of kids, ‘Cars 3’ doesn’t deliver what it should and the exciting races are bookends inside which is a long, one-track plot that children won’t be particularly interested in. In short, ‘Cars 3’ isn’t a ‘bad’ movie but, frankly, we expect more from Pixar than something that just trundles along in the same old gear.


During a race, Lightning has a bad crash. He flips over several times, slamming into the ground hard and causing sparks to fly each time he hits anything. The crash is intense, is shown in close-up and lasts for around thirty seconds; when he finally comes to a stop, Lightning is battered all over, doesn’t move or speak and it is clear that he has been badly damaged. No suffering is shown and the next time we see Lightning, he is physically fine but is much more subdued than normal.

When attempting to increase his speeds, Lightning goes on a simulator without permission, insisting that he knows what he’s doing. Not understanding the controls, he soon finds himself ‘crashing’, is dislodged from the simulator and, at a high-speed, shoots out of the machine, smashing into the screen in front of him. Another character approaches him and confirms that he is fine.

Lightning and his trainer, Cruz, go to a race where Lightning believes he can practice before the main, all-important race. When they get there, it turns out to be a demolition derby where many of the vehicles are extremely aggressive. His scene lasts around 15 minutes and both Lightning and Cruz are terrified for the majority of it. There are several mentions of both of them fearing for their lives and that other vehicles wish to kill them with one vehicle being kitted out with spinning blades and another has a huge, scary grin stretching up either side of its bonnet/hood. The ‘race’ is little more than fast, manic driving and several of the vehicles are so keen to cause violence that they come across as almost deranged. Some of these vehicles are ones which kids may consider benign/friendly like an ambulance and school bus so them suddenly being portrayed as violent and frightening may be unsettling for some.


It may be disappointing for the adults in the audience but kids will invariably enjoy the colourful, exciting car races and, while their interest may wane in the middle, there is enough to bring them back for the action-packed finale. While the majority of the movie is suitable for kids of all ages, we recommend supervision for those under 5 due to some intense scenes which may require reassurance.

  • Violence: 1/5
  • Emotional Distress: 1/5 (Lightning is regularly met with derision from Jackson Storm and other rookies which hurts his feelings)
  • Fear Factor: 1/5 (the demolition derby scene can be intense and is prolonged)
  • Sexual Content: 0/5
  • Bad Language: 0/5
  • Dialogue: 1/5
  • Other Notes: Deals with themes of winning, reclaiming your former glory, listening to those who came before you, supportive mentors, the fear of change and¬†seeing the potential in others.

Words by Laura Record

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