Review by Adam Donato
The Cars franchise is widely regarded as the stain on Pixar’s near spotless record, partially because Mater is the Jar Jar Binks of Pixar. He's an annoying side character who’s always there to say or do something so stupid that it’s supposed to be funny. After a trilogy of Cars movies, Disney+ comes along with a void of content. Their bounty of pre-existing movies and shows are so great that they need two streaming services to handle everything. Nevertheless, every existing and relevant IP has been pillaged for unnecessary, but possible, continuations. Does the story deserve or need to be told? It doesn’t matter.
The Cars franchise is deserving of its reputation. The first movie is legitimately good and easily the best of the franchise. Cars 2 is arguably Pixar’s lowest point. Cars 3 goes back to the first movie’s roots and it’s all the better for it, despite putting the 3 in 3/5 stars. There’s a Cars area in California Adventure. Gotta keep the brand alive! How do we do that? Content. This new show follows Lightning McQueen as he accompanies Mater on a cross country road trip for Mater’s sister’s wedding. With nine episodes running at just under ten minutes each, what can go wrong?
Nothing. Mater is still an annoying character, but in these bite size portions, he’s much more easily digestible. Side characters thrive in bite size portions and since Lightning McQueen has already had two movies dedicated to developing his character, this format works perfectly. Just like with Dug Days and Baymax!, this show does a great job of having standalone episodes while also telling an overarching narrative that feels satisfying by the end. The cynic from the first paragraph would not be satisfied by this unnecessary continuation, but the optimist in this paragraph would applaud Cars on the Road for finding the capacity in which these characters work best. Not to be mean, but the short runtime is much more appropriate for the target demographic. Babies.
It’s unfair to dismiss this show outright as child fodder. There’s some pretty good stuff in here that is directed towards adults. A standout episode is certainly the one where they spoof a horror classic. There’s also an episode where Mater takes a glimpse at the other side and it's absurdly funny. Short little bit episodes like this allow for them to take some decent risks. Episodes like these make for a redeemable existence.
Watching the whole show in one setting is very doable and makes for an enjoyable experience. It's lowest common denominator type of stuff, but the Minions are also popular. The content machine rages on and audiences can do a lot worse than Cars on the Road. Disney+ day has asserted itself as an event. It’s worth giving this show a chance over rewatching Thor: Love and Thunder or ruining Pinocchio for yourself. Cars on the Road is better than it should be and at the very least, it’s passable.
Cars on the Road streams on Disney+ on September 8. All nine episodes reviewed.