Disney/ Pixar’s ‘Cars 3’ is a Treasure Trove that Offers many Pearls of Wisdom for People of All Ages
By: Sarah Fox
I recently had the pleasure of seeing “Cars 3” in the theater with my younger sister and I have to say that it was a very enjoyable experience. My anticipation for this movie grew as the months passed by. I kept up to date with all the teasers, clips, and speculation videos, attended the Road to the Races event in May, stocked up on various Cars 3 merchandise, and even bought my tickets online before the movie came out! When the day finally arrived for me to see the film, I was one satisfied customer.
While I was overjoyed at the film’s debut, many critics gave the movie mixed reviews (including a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 59% on Metacritic). I personally believe that the movie contains many riches that are hidden behind the animated style of talking cars with eyes and mouths. Brian Fee’s “Cars 3” centers around seven-time Piston Cup Champion, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) and his internal struggle in facing the challenges that come with old age. The main plot summary of the movie states:
“Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast cars, the legendary Lightning McQueen finds himself pushed out of the sport that he loves. Hoping to get back in the game, he turns to Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo), an eager young technician who has her own plans for winning. With inspiration from the Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected turns, No. 95 prepares to compete on Piston Cup Racing’s biggest stage.”
The Cars franchise has always been the “black sheep” of the Pixar family. Not only did the first Cars film receive a passive response from both critics and audiences after its 2006 release, “Cars 2” also lowered the bar for Pixar films after unanimously gaining the title of the worst Pixar film to date. Even the two spin off films, “Planes” and “Planes: Fire and Rescue,” didn’t come off as a hit with audiences. The third installment of the franchise aims to redeem the Cars reputation and explore a deeper concept in learning how to deal with a person’s ever changing career.
Before I dive into the nuggets of truth that the film showcases, I must address several qualms I had with the film (the following list may contain spoilers):
(1) The film’s pacing felt a bit rushed. Every scene in the first act zooms past the viewers, giving them little time to immerse themselves in the protagonist’s struggle. Although the first half of the movie had a hurried pace and dull tone, it gets better in the second half with the colorful explosions in the Demolition Derby scene, reliving the Glory Days with past racing legends, and the budding relationship between Lightning McQueen and Cruz Ramirez.
(2) The humor was dry and repetitive. Many of the jokes in this movie were hit or miss. There was a “life’s a beach” reference and a scene with Cal Weather’s bad comebacks repeating itself one time too many.
(3) The final act of this movie didn’t feel like a proper send off for Lighting McQueen. With all the persistent attacks on his character during the movie, I felt Lightning deserved to demolish his opponent Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer) and prove that passion will always supersede statistics when it comes to the heart of racing. Instead of letting Lightning cross the finish line and claim the victory, it was pawned off on Cruz, making the two have a joint win. I felt like this ending downplayed Lightning’s struggle in making a comeback story for the ages.
Now with all my complaints aside, it is time to uncover the treasures that are present within Cars 3. As the movie began to unfold, I found that there are also many biblical truths within these morals. (The following list will contain spoilers).
1. Self-Doubt is the biggest obstacle when it comes to pursuing your dreams. One of the many themes in Cars 3 comes from exploring the dangers of self-doubt. Although Lightning suffered the effects of self-doubt after his crash, Cruz Ramirez was another character who allowed her doubts to rob her of the opportunity at becoming a racer. In a heated exchange between her and McQueen, Cruz (in a moment of vulnerability) expressed her desire for becoming a racer due to seeing Lightning race on television.
She explained that her family always told her to “dream small or not at all” in an attempt to protect her from shattered expectations. This caused her to persevere in achieving her dream despite her family’s doubts. When she arrived at her first race, her doubts began to strip her of her confidence as she compared herself to the other competitors. She claims that they were bigger and stronger and had better engines, and she knew that she would never measure up to their level of boldness.
I admire the connection that Cruz and Lightning shared in that moment. They each had an internal battle with self-doubt and the impact that those doubts had on their future. As their relationship progressed, I found myself staring into a mirror. I too, struggle with self-doubt. There are many moments in my life where I get into the habit of doubting myself and comparing myself with others: “I’ll never be able to write like her.” “I don’t look like anyone in this room. How can I make a positive impact when I’m always the odd man out?” “My waistline will never be as small as hers.” “I bet her relationship with God is way better than mine.”
The doubts keep replaying in my mind. Even in the midst of my doubts, God reminds me that his perfect love casts out all my fears (1 John 4:18). If I place my trust in His strength rather than my own, the lies that Satan throws at me won’t be able to hinder me from the plan that God has for my life (Jeremiah 29:11). I can be confident that God’s grace will always be sufficient in working through my flaws (2 Corinthians 12:9).
2. You can have a profound influence in someone’s life and not even realize it. Another central theme in Cars 3 is the importance of mentorship. One of the most profound scenes in the movie was when Doc’s teacher, Smokey (voiced by Chris Cooper) took Lightning into his garage to show him the letters that Doc sent over the past few years. After the Fabulous Hudson Hornet (also known as Doc Hudson) suffered a career ending crash, he was forced to give up on his love for the sport of racing.
Lightning explained to Smokey that he didn’t want to end up surrendering his career under the same circumstances as Doc did. As Lightning began to see the various newspaper clippings of his racing legacy, he began to realize (as Smokey pointed out) that racing wasn’t the only thing that mattered to Doc. Without being aware of it, Lightning had made a major impression on his mentor. The connection that he and Doc shared was a powerful bond. Smokey continued to tell Lightning that “Doc saw something in him that he didn’t see in himself.”
Sometimes I get into the habit of questioning the value that I bring to others. I often get a bit melodramatic in thinking that my worth depends on the amount of likes I receive on a post or how often my articles get read or shared. The truth is, God didn’t place me on this earth to receive validation from others. He wants my life to reflect his love. He created me to be a light that shines brightly for him so that others will see my good works and glorify my Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:14-16). I might be making a difference in someone’s life without even realizing it. Sometimes it takes an extra set of eyes to see the potential that you never knew you had.
3. In order to keep the flame going, you need to ignite that spark in someone else. Although I didn’t appreciate Lightning McQueen sharing his win, I have to say that there is yet another gem within this scene as well. During the Florida 500 race, a huge crash took place causing all the racers to go to the pits. McQueen decided to have Cruz replace him in the second half of the race. Being reluctant at first, Cruz wasn’t sure if she should ruin Lightning’s last chance at winning. He told her that “this was his last chance to give Cruz, her first chance.” This scene stood out to me because it highlights the importance of passing on the mantle to the younger generation.
Someone once told me that passing the mantle to younger generations is a biblical command. In Titus chapter 2, the Apostle Paul encouraged churches to allow the older men to teach the younger men and the older women to teach the younger women. One of the goals that I hope to achieve comes from my desire to make a difference in the lives of others, especially younger children. Since I aspire to be a Juvenile Delinquency Attorney, I pray that God would give me an opportunity to pass on wisdom and truth to underprivileged children in the criminal justice system. I appreciate Cars 3 for bringing that message to light through Lightning passing on the torch to Cruz.
While there are many other lessons to be learned from Cars 3, I wanted to highlight those specific instances which stood out to me. Although critics didn’t receive the movie in a positive light, I adored the sweet story that was presented in the film. With brilliant cinematography and lovable characters, Cars 3 is a treasure trove full of many gems for people of all ages.