This weekend we have one of the most successful kids’ franchises of all time going up against my greatest fear since I was a kid.
After a terrible second lap with Cars 2, Pixar is back on the sequel track with Cars 3.
The story once again focuses on Lightning McQueen and his career in racing. Much time has passed since his glory days as a constant champion. Now, new sleek racers like Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) have faster technology, speed and attitudes. In an attempt to outrace Jackson, Lightning crashes, nearly ending his career. He spends the majority of the movie trying to get back to his original glory.
Essentially, Lightning McQueen is a proud Gen X’er and the millenials (like Jackson Storm) can do everything he did, with more efficiency and half the effort. However, the plot becomes distracted and loses focus. It starts with a story about struggling with age, then to a Rocky training story, and then onto defying the bubble that you’ve been place into.
Cars 3 is a major step up from the second movie. Yes, it’s a pretty low bar, but you can be satisfied that your kids won’t be any worse off by watching this flick. It delivers exactly what works for the franchise – More Lightning McQueen and more racing. It treats Mater as a very peripheral character, almost like Pixar put him in a corner after giving him the spotlight in Cars 2.
This may be the safest Pixar movie to date. No risks were taken in the creation of this movie. The story is so simple that it could have been reduced to a four-minute montage of a training sequence. In fact, there’s so much training and reminiscing about training, that it gets tedious. At just under two hours, kids in the audience may get restless.
The new addition to the car cast is Cristela Alonzo as trainer Cruz Ramirez. She may be the only thing that separates this movie from the first. The highlight of the movie is the environment surrounding the characters. Sure, the cars look purposely toy-like, but the tracks they drive through look extremely realistic. Pixar may be losing their original concept touch, but their craftsmanship has drastically improved over time.
Cars 3 is the Ford Focus of the Pixar world. It’s an improvement over the previous model, but no one brags about driving a Ford Focus. C
47 Meters Down
It’s a crazy thought to think that The Shallows inspired any sort of rejuvenation for the shark genre, but it managed to be incredibly ridiculous and entertaining at the same time.
Mandy Moore and Claire Holt star as two sisters on a wild vacation in Mexico. They meet two locals, who talk them into doing something dangerous…
Can I just stop for a second and mention that at least three horror flicks a year start with that same premise…? Moral of the story, don’t do anything out of your comfort zone in Mexico. (I learned this by eating street tacos in Tijuana.)
On a whim, these sisters decide to jump in a cage and see great white sharks for a fun afternoon. However, their afternoon turns into a nightmare as the cord to their cage snaps and they are sent plummeting down 47 meters to the ocean floor.
They spend the remaining hour trying to debate how to get back to the surface as 25-foot great whites wait for an afternoon snack.
My enjoyment of this movie is completely based off the fact that sharks are my greatest fear. I knew what I was watching was dumb beyond belief, but I couldn’t help but hold my breath as I watched these girls run out of air and be hunted by literal monsters.
When 47 Meters Down works is when you can only see one character swimming in the vast nothingness of the ocean’s darkness. The fear comes from the unknown. The sharks act as if they’re the killer in a slasher flick. Every kill is surprising and jumpy.
The problem is that you don’t every really care if any of the characters live. So many poor decisions are made that you can’t help but feel that you’re reading a script where, if something bad can happen, then it will happen.
No one should expect a great movie in the shark attack genre (except for Jaws, of course). The only expectation should be whether it’s a great thrill ride. And honestly, this is for the most part. The ending, sadly, is incredibly rushed, and feels like they weren’t sure where to finish the story. As ridiculous as The Shallows ends, it still provides great closure.
If you see one movie in the theaters this week (go see Wonder Woman), I’d argue for the scary flick because you will jump, but you may walk out with a few less brain cells. C+