Racing ace Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is feeling his age as younger racers begin showing up, especially one hotshot named Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer)—but our hero’s not ready to retire gracefully just yet. It’s a comfort to see Pixar Animation Studios firing on all cylinders again (pun intended), and while this one doesn’t reach the gleaming heights of Cars, it’s a huge improvement on the wretched Cars 2. Director Ben Fee and his six fellow writers flirt with predictability, setting up expectations then surprising us, and they wisely bring back (in flashbacks) the sage presence of the late Paul Newman as Doc Hudson, Lightning’s mentor. Whether Lightning’s midlife crisis will resonate with the movie’s kiddie audience remains to be seen, but Fee and company get points for bringing it up at all. J.L.