Welcome to the House of Crouse. This week we get our motors running and head out on the highway. It’s our classic cars episode. To celebrate we welcome Nathan Fillion, one of the stars of “Cars 3.” We chat about everything from car design to soap operas and naming your kids after TV characters. Then Edgar Wright pulls into the parking lot. We talk about his twenty-two-years-on-the-making pedal to the metal movie “Baby Driver.” C’mon in and fill up your tank!
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies including “Cars 3,” the latest adventures of Lightening McQueen, the bachelorette party from hell in “Rough Night” and the life and legacy of Tupac Shakur in “All Eyez on Me.”
It’s only June but this year Nathan Fillion already knows what his nieces and nephews are getting for Christmas.
“I have enough little kids in my life and they are all getting Sterling Hot Wheels for Christmas,” laughs the Cars 3 star.
In his second gig for Pixar — he also appeared in Monsters University — the Edmonton-born star lends his voice to the character of Sterling, a slick-talking coupe and CEO who becomes the new sponsor of racer Lightning McQueen.
“I had some of the classic toys,” he says. “The G.I. Joe with the Kung Fu Grip. The Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots and Smash Up Derby. Do you remember those? You’d pull the cord and wheel them at each other. Those are the fantastic toys I remember having as a kid. Otherwise it was Lego or a stick and your imagination. But to go from saying, ‘Isn’t this a neat little Hot Wheels,’ to actually being one? I can’t even.”
Fillion came to Cars 3 fresh off of 173 episodes playing mystery novelist Richard Castle on the crime comedy series Castle.
“As far as taking on a new character goes, the only danger is falling into any habits,” he says of leaving Richard Castle behind. “When you do a character for eight years there are things you will start to do habitually. I think a little more focus is appropriate to make sure you are not recycling anything from your last gig.”
The actor honed his skills on the daytime soap opera One Life to Live. For three years he was Joey Buchanan, the son of original protagonists Joe Riley Sr. and Victoria Lord. His work on that show earned him a 1996 Daytime Emmy Award nomination.
“It wasn’t like one show a week,” he says, “it was every day. We didn’t do cue cards. I’ve heard rumours of cue cards. Even the older, older guys did not use cue cards. They were seasoned pros. Anyone who talks down on daytime (television), and I never will, has never done daytime. It is a mountain of work. It is 40 pages a day.
“It’s a muscle. It’s like you start doing pushups. If you do pushups every day for three years by the end of it you can do a lot of pushups. I’m pretty sure by the end of three years that memorizing, that taking of the words and letting them live, was a muscle I flexed pretty well.”
Despite guest spots on popular shows like Modern Family, Big Bang Theory and Desperate Housewives, he will likely always be best loved for playing the hilarious anti-hero Captain Malcolm Reynolds on Joss Whedon’s short lived but influential futuristic space western Firefly.
“It was almost 15 years ago that show came out and people are still loving it,” he says, “and dressing up like the characters. I will be sad on the day they stop doing that. If anyone wants to name their kid after my character on that show the kid will have to say, ‘Yes, I was named after a character on that show.’ Then there is a chance that someone may still watch it and love it and still dress up like that guy and I’ll still be relevant and everybody will be happy. Especially me.”
Five years ago, in my review of “Cars 2,” the animated adventure of anthropomorphic race car Lightning McQueen, I wrote, “The first “Cars” film was my least favourite Pixar film—until now.” With the release of “Cars 3” I have to revise that statement.
Pixar are the American masters of animation, the gold standard. In films like “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo,” “WALL-E” and “Up,” to name a handful, they are wizards, able to weave a story out of pixels and terabytes about toys and other inanimate objects that make us care about them for the ninety minutes we’re in the theatre.
For me the “Cars” movies have always been the sore thumbs of the Pixar IMDB page. Wildly successful, they appeal to kids who enjoy the colourful characters, fast paced action and corny jokes, but there’s not enough under the hood. They have always struck me as fuel injected visuals with little depth in the story department.
“Cars 3” is no different.
“Cars 3’s” story sees champion racer Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) in the “living legend” phase of his career. An old school racer in a changing world his dominance of the track is challenged by hotshot Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), the fastest car on the circuit since McQueen. “Champ here has been a role model of mine for years,” says Jackson, “trash talking and I mean a LOT of years.” To stay in the game McQueen adopts Jackson’s new school training methods, wind tunnels, treadmills, virtual reality and a multi million-dollar race simulator, under the watchful eye of trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo).
When the high-tech racing preparation doesn’t work the pair seek out old timey trainer Smokey (Chris Cooper) to help McQueen find his lost mojo. In doing so they reconnect with the memory of McQueen’s mentor, Doc Hudson (courtesy of unused audio recordings of the late Paul Newman from “Cars”). Old style know-how trumps hi tech—like Rocky training on sides of beef, McQueen dodges bales of hay to increase his dexterity—which seems an odd message for a movie featuring state-of-the-art animation.
Padded with flashbacks and musical numbers to flesh out its thin story “Cars 3” feels more like an excuse to sell merchandise—the original generated more than $5 billion in swag sales—than a fully realized film. There are good messages for kids about self confidence and never giving up and the animation is terrific but it lacks the emotional punch that made “WALL-E,” “Toy Story” and “Up” so potent.
“Cars 3” brings much of what you expect from Pixar but seems to have left its heart at the junkyard. That’s not likely to affect audience reaction. The “Cars” movies have found permanent parking spots in many a family’s Blu Ray machine but for my money they belong on the used car lot.