Lest I appear all curmudgeonly following my complaints about Cars 2, here's a run-down of the things I loved about the film:
- Consistency of characterization: Everybody we've met in previous films behaved like we expected. New characters behaved consistently, even through plot-twists. This may seem like a small thing, but when you screw it up the whole movie is ruined.
- Mater's moment of introspection. He reviews his recent activities, and is able, briefly, to see himself through other people's eyes. This was very, very strong storytelling.
- Dents, and the value thereof. I loved that bit.
- Japanese culture is funny (and beautiful, and huge, and deeper than oceans.) The filmmakers handled this almost perfectly. I don't have any friends who are sufficiently steeped in Japanese culture to serve as coal-mine canaries here, but I suspect an audience full of those types of people would laugh and thrill at the references, and enjoy it at least as much as I did (if not a lot more.)
- Every Spy Movie You've Ever Seen. Seriously, they're all in there somewhere.
- "It's all voice activated these days." This was a perfect blend of "the future is cool," "the future is out to get you," and "surprising yet inevitable."
- That one lemon who keeps trying to get across the county line. Whether he represents the "differently abled" or just each and every one of us as we struggle to do something difficult, he's worth paying attention to. I don't know if he sufficiently mitigates the other lemon messages, but taken on his own he's wonderful.
- The tribute to Paul Newman through the characters' tributes to Doc Hudson. Very nice.
I'm not saying that Pixar didn't turn out a lemon of their own this time -- at least when compared to other things they've done. I guess this list shows that even when they don't crack my Threshold of Awesome, they still deliver a good movie.