As I left the theater after screening the new Disney/Pixar animated feature "Cars 3", I found myself wondering: "Aren't kids films supposed to at least be fun for kids?"


Yet the one noticeable thing that I noticed during the screening, which included about 100 or so young children, was how absolutely quiet it was in the theater. No laughter, no "Ooh's and Ah's", no cheering... no sound whatsoever from the children. Were it not for the kid behind me getting restless and kicking my seat at about the 75-minute mark, I nearly forgot there were children in the audience at all!


I'm positive that is not what Disney is looking for after shelling out about $200 million for Brian Fee to make his directorial debut.

It is generally agreed that the second installment of the "Cars" franchise was a complete failure. And, we just assumed that was the end of the line and Lightening McQueen, Mater, and the rest of the gang from Radiator Springs would just fade away into dust. Unfortunately, it did very well overseas and earned a global purse of $562 million which is $100-million more than the original "Cars".


This time around, with John Lasseter stepping away from the director's seat (but remaining a exec producer) Fee not only is directing it but also wrote most of it along with a couple of writers from the original. This time the story takes a different line, instead of just doing the right thing and giving it all you've got, it locks in on aging and female empowerment.


Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is clearly the veteran favorite of just about every race and enjoying the fame that comes with it. His friends in Radiator Springs are also enjoying the benefits of being his friend. However, he suddenly loses a race to a newcomer - Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) - and finds himself becoming obsolete.

As with everything, the older ones are replaced by the younger stronger ones and there is no exception in auto racing. Lightning is faced with a new breed of racecar that trains differently and is more technically advanced.


His sponsor sells out to a new owner, Sterling (Nathan Fillion) who turns Lightning over to a new trainer named Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo). She, in turn, tries in vain to introduce Lightning to new modern training methods. That doesn't work.


In an effort to regain his mojo, he seeks the advice of one of Doc Hudson old pals on the old dirt tracks; specifically Smokey (Chris Cooper). He, Cruz and his pals from Radiator Springs head off to practice old school under the tutelage of Smokey. Along with Cruz they learn lessons of dealing with the aging and gender equality.


Surely, these are topics of interest to five to ten year olds still trying to snarf down their popcorn and Raisnettes at the same time. Not! The Pixar animation is, as usual, first rate and Owen Wilson still makes a perfect Lightning McQueen. Even the stories pacing is rock solid with logical flow. However, there is nothing fun about the film. Nothing. It is literally a film about aging and female empowerment that just happens to use animated talking cars.


Disney is known for relating death and destruction to children in just about every animated film while still keeping the fun in the movie. Teaching fun life lessons to children needs to be fun otherwise it is forgotten.


"Cars 3" is not a bad film, technically the animation is rock solid and the script is cohesive. However, that's it. It is neither funny nor fun; it is merely a way to occupy two hours of your child's day.   -- GEOFF BURTON