‘Cars 3’ reviews prove how desperately we need more female movie critics

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There are two ways to appreciate Cars films, I’ve always liked to say: be a child between 2 and 9 years old, or have one on hand. (I had the privilege of having a mini-me on hand the first time I saw Carsand through his eyes, I loved him as he did.)

Without that perspective, everyone complains about the same things: it’s not as sophisticated as Wall-Eneither nostalgic like toy story; it’s not nuanced like Ratatouille nor an emotional exploration like Upside down. Reduced, that’s a lot of “Boo-hoo, it’s a children’s movie!

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Ugh, adults – so whiny and spoiled! But as boring as it got to hear adults knocking Carscertain themes emerged in the output of Cars 3 criticism (first revealed on Monday) that went far beyond the usual recriminations.

Starting with one that is now old news, but for this exercise, I didn’t see it coming:

We desperately need more female film critics

Cruz Ramirez
Credit: Disney/Pixar

At the time of this writing, rotten tomatoes had 17 critics weighing in, including 16 men. They especially liked it — just like the only woman in this group, EOby Leah Greenblatt — up to 71% fresh produce (so far).

None had a problem with Cars 3The common thread “female empowerment”, a new wrinkle for this franchise which, let’s face it, was aimed squarely at boys. The film features Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), a female “practice” car who once dreamed of becoming a racing driver.

To find more female perspectives on this new angle, we had to break out of the boys’ club that populates the big sites. rotten tomatoes aggregated early Monday.

And boy, was that perspective wildly different:

Yolanda Machado, Sassy Mama in LA:

Less Pixar-like and more like an attempt to gently facilitate Central American acceptance, female empowerment, and diversity, but as long as it happens on the terms of the male leader. SIGH. …tried to tell a story of female empowerment through the male lens perspective… [Cruz Ramirez] is a very skilled trainer, who could, in fact, do the rounds for McQueen, but he consistently refuses her advice and instead makes her feel unsure of his methods and skills. … She is only allowed to have something if a man allows her to have it, this includes confidence, recognition of her skills and even chances to speak for herself. Ladies, it’s not girl power.

Courtney Howard, FreshFiction.TV:

[McQueen] gets a young woman to make him feel better about himself! … Do not mistake yourself. It’s absolutely wonderful that they wanted to be gender-neutral and should be commended for the diversity of the voice cast, but there are aspects they don’t fully understand. …The third act is particularly problematic, as it does not fully commit to the bold choice of female empowerment that it clearly sets out to embody. It looks like a cop, made to appease a wider base rather than genuinely surprise the audience… as a woman, I’m very disappointed that it fumbles – because the message it sends is that we can’t have it all. We have to share our place at the table.

Interestingly, both Machado and Howard strongly identify this as an issue, while the 16 male-written reviews barely address it. And when they did, they saw it in a whole new light:

Owen Glieberman, Variety:

Cars 3 is really a story of mentorship, of learning to let go of your ego to boost someone else’s. As such, it touches in a pleasingly worded and hands-on way. Turns out it’s a movie about girl power: Cruz Ramirez is a coach because she never believed in herself as a runner, and it’s up to Lightning to turn her around.

Eric Kohn, IndieWire:

Previous films had an inherently masculine quality due to their focus – men and their cars, you know – but Cruz’s determination to break into the boys’ club with his own ambition takes the narrative away from Lightning’s pity party with no less cultural depth than Furiosa’s support for Mad Max: Fury Road.

“But your sample size of female reviews is too small! you might protest, “how do you know this illustrates how women will see it?” And that is precisely the problem here, my friends: the first day when Cars 3 reviews came out, only three women had weighed in.

What would you like me to do ?

To be fair, Machado and Howard liked many elements of Cars 3 — but the place of its female characters in the story was clearly not one:

Yolanda Machado, Sassy Mama in LA:

Even the treatment of a smaller character, like Natalie Certain (Kerry Washington), receives a stereotype of what a smart, successful woman looks like — unfriendly, dry, and humorless. There were many moments where I wanted to scream at the screen – “THIS IS NOT HOW IT WORKS” – but I just rolled my eyes and sighed in disappointment. … [Cars 3 could have] given a powerful but entertaining story for all, he chose to explain girl power instead. Thanks, but no thanks Pixar.

Courtney Howard, FreshFiction.TV:

Analytics specialist Natalie Certain (voiced by Kerry Washington) has to deal with sexism in her job for no reason. She is presented as a trope (“corporate ice queen”) and has to crush that from a dismissive colleague. Sally (voiced by Bonnie Hunt) is there exclusively to give Lightning pep talks.

Again – none of rotten tomatoes the guys caught it all. And it just proves that a representative sample of voices is absolutely essential in cultural criticism, especially in a time when aggregate sentiment runs so much business.

And now back to your regular look at Cars 3:

It right some past wrongs, namely “Cars 2”

Eric Goldman, IGN:

Cars is a series of films that many dismiss as existing solely to sell toys, and it seems Pixar – under director Brian Fee for this episode – was well aware of this perception and wanted to prove this film had a reason. larger and story-driven to exist. [Cars 3] it feels like something deeper.

Michel Rechtshaffen, The Hollywood Reporter:

Following the loud misfires of 2011 Cars 2Pixar’s pit crew performed the diagnostics and were able to identify the winning formula of humor, heart, and action (with an added dose of informed Route 66 nostalgia) that made the 2006 original such a nice ride.

Former Radiator Springs Gang Arrested

The whole gang is here -- for a minute or two.

The whole gang is here — for a minute or two.
Credit: Disney/Pixar

Eric Goldman, IGN:

Not only does the main plot about the film’s protagonist deal with aging, but the always awkward, wacky and often annoying Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) – who, to be fair, many kids adore – is very sidelined. in this film, almost completely written out of the middle part of the story.

Michel Rechtshaffen, The Hollywood Reporter:

As in the first film, the themes of youth versus old age and change versus legacy again play a prominent role in the script…which does a good job of retaining the warmly regarded original characters (although in much smaller roles) while introducing attractive new ones, notably the spunky Cruz d’Alonzo.

Eric Kohn, IndieWire:

While the usual assemblage of support types surface here and there, including Lightning’s ever-reliable sidekick Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) and Lightning’s support girlfriend Sally Carrera (Bonnie Hunt), the major part of Cars 3 revolves around the developing relationship between Lightning and Cruz.

Everyone compared it to a Rocky film

Reminds you of a particular beach race?

Reminds you of a particular beach race?
Credit: Disney/Pixar

Eric Goldman, IGN:

The configuration makes it easy to assume Cars 3 is the Rocky III of the series – with Lightning meeting their match, suffering a bad loss, then fighting their way to victory.

Brian Truit, USA today:

Though still not a Pixar classic, Lightning McQueen and his four-wheeled band finally get on the right track with the surprisingly deep depth. Cars 3 … which amounts to Rocky IV with anthropomorphic automobiles.

Eric Kohn, IndieWire:

It’s a tough, mature sports film about the aging process that – if anthropomorphized vehicles were replaced by humans – wouldn’t seem out of place in Rocky’s oeuvre.

Matt Singer, ScreenCrush:

Lasseter’s replacement [as director] Brian Fee brings it down to earth, telling a much simpler, more relatable story that clearly draws inspiration from underdog sports movies like Rocky III.

mike ryan, Uproxx:

Direct inspiration or not, I’m on board with a Rocky III Cars film. Plus, there’s a lot of themes here about getting older and knowing when it’s time to let someone younger and better take your place.

Related video: Do you like “cars”? You can now talk to Lightning McQueen for real

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