Ultra HD
Recommended
4 stars
List Price
$44.99
Amazon
$19.96 (56%)
3rd Party
$15.77
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Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
5 Stars
Supplements
1 Stars
High-Def Extras
2 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

Cars 3 - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Street Date:
November 7th, 2017
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
November 6th, 2017
Movie Release Year:
2017
Studio:
Disney/Buena Vista
Length:
102 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated G
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of the standard, day-and-date Blu-ray release, also written by M. Enois Duarte. Specifically, this review features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, Audio and Final Thoughts sections while both reviews share The Movie Itself and Special Features.

For a full in-depth review of the Blu-ray SDR HERE.

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

After the terribly misguided decision of modifying the sequel to 2006's animated racing sports comedy with a sleeker, more stylish espionage body, the mechanics at Pixar wisely rebuilt the CG vehicle to its original classic parts for Cars 3. And as a result, this franchise's third installment is a winner, managing a decisive but astonishing victory over its predecessor. Returning to the drawing board, the plot is simplified with a better aerodynamic focus on a clearly-defined finish line, a concept redesign that brings the series back to the basics. This doesn't necessarily mean the first movie is suddenly a welcomed addition to the studio brand or that the direct follow-up is somehow magically more tolerable and in someway good. It only means this latest entry is an unexpected improvement over its predecessor, so much so that I'm willing to even suggest it's better than the first movie from eleven years. It should be obvious I'm not a fan of the series, let alone the sport the producers choose for its subject matter, but I was pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Almost as though borrowing parts from other sports films, the story of Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) being threatened by a younger generation of racing cars and having to face retirement is engaging and on the same maturity standing as other Pixar greats. As if pretending the sequel never happened, Cars 3 feels as though picking up some after the first where the once-pompous McQueen no longer races purely for the win, but for the love of the sport. A short montage opening even shows the camaraderie and fraternalism between athletes with McQueen even encouraging much of it while still being recognized as the world champion everyone wants to beat. An amusing running gag shows Dinoco owner Tex (Humpy Wheeler) tempting the star champ right in front of his own racer Cal Weathers (Kyle Petty). Things suddenly change for the friends when a host of rookie racers, like smug condescending Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), enter the competition. With his sleek, streamlined body that practically hugs the road, his glossy midnight black paint job and a cool lighting effect, Storm easily defeats the veterans without much of a challenge.

For fans of the sports genre, there is something vaguely familiar about this plot. As analyst Natalie Certain (Kerry Washington) points out, Jackson Storm was perfectly designed as if in a lab, training with the latest equipment and technology to further enhance his attributes. He's an unbeatable machine! Where have we heard such language before? That's right! Storm is basically Ivan Drago, the cocky and brutal nemesis of Rocky IV. And just like our favorite boxing hero, McQueen must return to his roots, heed the words of his friends and late trainer, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), and learn to fight smarter, not faster. And although we have the obligatory training montage where McQueen tries to outrace racing technician Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), all that's missing is a beach scene with congratulatory hugs. But with that negligible complaint aside, the film zooms right along while introducing new trainer Smokey (Chris Cooper), the crew chief that made Doc into a racing legend. The story also suddenly goes left while turning right by shifting its influences from classic Rocky to something more like Creed, but that's as far as I'll drive into spoiler territory.

With such pleasant surprises thrown at the audience, Cars 3 manages to be a delight while still being somewhat predictable, which is an oxymoron. I know. Nevertheless, part of its value is the film's silliness and humor feeling reminiscent of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, except McQueen has already overcome his arrogance. Here, he's faced with the reality of growing old, of age itself making it difficult to keep up with the arrival of younger, faster racers, a common trope of many sports films. Pixar hasn't really explored the theme from this particular perspective, though Up and The Incredibles come pretty close from a different angle. In Cars 3, however, the filmmakers embrace the theme wholeheartedly and sincerely, pitting McQueen against the prospect of retirement after a near-fatal crash and at the behest of his new sponsor Sterling (Nathan Fillion), who wants to profit from McQueen's popularity as a brand name. The race to the finish line comes with emotional epiphanies and encouraging words for both younger viewers and the older folks wishing to embolden those young racers to always chase their dreams.

Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment brings Cars 3 to Ultra HD Blu-ray as a three-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Disney Digital Copy. When redeeming said code via RedeemCars.com, it includes the HD and 4K UHD digital versions, giving VUDU users access to a UHD copy with Dolby Vision. [Editor's Note]: However, this may not work for all users, as some are reporting the code only opens the HD / SDR and HDX versions.

The dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a pair of Region Free, BD50 discs, one with the movie and the other containing bonus features, stacked atop one another. All three discs are housed inside a black, eco-vortex case with a lightly embossed, glossy slipcover. At startup, viewers are taken directly to a menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The underdog in the race zooms past its HD competitor to the finish line with a spectacularly gorgeous HEVC H.265 encode, delivering a stunning presentation with a variety of demo-worthy moments. Although the overall picture quality isn't a night-and-day difference compared to its Blu-ray counterpart, the picture nonetheless ignites the screen with a sumptuous array of slightly brighter and deeper colors. What surprises most is the mild difference in the cherry red of Lightning McQueen sporting a more realistic carmine shade and the electrifying blue of Jackson Storm revealing some cyan aqua undertones. Meanwhile, the vast collection of cars on display are a parade of opulent primaries, and energetic green of Chick Hicks is lively and upbeat. Better yet, the frame is continuously awash with a passionate and richly-saturated assortment of secondary pastel hues. What was previously a brownish spot on the metal of some vehicles are now clearly a reddish-brown looking more like real rust, and the banana color of Cruz in HD is now a brighter, lemon true yellow in 4K UHD. In fact, in terms of the palette, every minute of the film is a feast for the eyes.

In HDR, the CG-animated comedy takes the win with pristine, pitch-perfect contrast, allowing for remarkable visibility into the far distance and adding some eye-popping realism in a few sequences, such as the Thunder Hollow and the racetrack in Doc Hudson's hometown. Whites are radiant and ecstatic with brilliant luminosity, providing the fluffy clouds an amazing, realistic glow while the various lights on the track have a crisp, tight punch. Even more impressive are the specular highlights sparkling and bouncing off the super-clean and shiny cars before a race, which is especially true when McQueen receives a new coat that glistens in the sun, and the lights in the stadium brightly illuminate the screen while maintaining superb clarity. The 4K presentation also debuts with luxurious, inky rich blacks throughout, gleaming with splendid tonal variation between the lighter and darker portions of the frame. Viewers can plainly make out Jackson Storm's pitch-black body realistically fade into softer shades as lights bounce off his sides, and the darkest shadows reveal every minutia and feature, providing the image with a marvelous three-dimensional appeal and a beautiful cinematic appeal.

Presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio, the 2160p video is arguably not much sharper than it 1080p counterpart, but overall definition and resolution noticeably receives a welcomed uptick. The most minute and meticulous feature on the bodies of each vehicle is plainly visible, exposing the tiniest scratch and blemish of Miss Fritter and her demolition derby friends while the rust stains of Mater are so shockingly lifelike and realistic that one is almost tempted to touch it. The edges of the new, slick racecars are very well-defined while the stickers and lettering of the cars, windows and billboards are legible even from a distance. The razor-sharp lines in the buildings, the aged wood racetrack and the new, fancy equipment at Rust-eze's training facility will mesmerize and delight viewers. Only notable issues holding this 4K racing machine from perfection is some very mild evidence of aliasing or the sharpest edges of the metal trimming on some cars shimmering unnaturally. There is also a very visible moiré effect on the front grill of Mack that's sadly distracting. 

The Audio: Rating the Sound

With tires squealing and engines loudly revving, Cars 3 zooms right past its DTS-HD MA counterpart and crosses the finish line like a champ, powered by a powerful Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Only, a word of caution for racecar sports fans: the disc automatically defaults to a Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 track. The 7.1.4 option must be manually selected in the main menu screen before enjoying the thrills and excitement of hearing cars screech, whirr, growl and vroom across the screen.

Much like what's heard on the HD disc, whenever the cars take to the track — be it dirt, mud, sand or asphalt — each vehicle fluidly and effortlessly pans from one speaker to the next while the echo of engines bleed into the sides and rears. But this time around, the same echoing effects also spread into the ceiling with the debris of dirt and tiny rocks discretely flying across the room. During McQueen's initial crash, viewers can actually hear both the car and sparks coming off it flawlessly moving from behind, into the top rears and from the top fronts down to the center channel. The design also comes with excellent directionality during calmer moments, as the cheer of the crowd surround the listener, the voices of the announcers seem to reverberate above the listening area and the leaves rustle in trees realistically overhead. A nice highlight is when McQueen and Cruz visit Doc's hometown where we can distinctly hear some of the local wildlife and the chirping of crickets in the distance, creating an immersive hemispheric soundfield.

For a majority of the runtime, however, much of the action unfolds across the screen, generating a highly engaging, sprawling half-dome soundstage. Delivering superb fidelity and warmth, imaging continuously feels expansive and spacious with convincing off-screen effects and atmospherics that discretely move across the screen and top heights. Nicely bleeding into the tops and sides, Randy Newman's score benefits from the extra breathing room, exhibiting outstanding clarity and distinction in the highest frequencies. The dialogue is precise and intelligible in the center, delivering every line and emotional conversation with excellent intonation. The low-end remains on par as the DTS-HD version, but it's appropriate to the few bits of action with accurate, room-penetrating response and a couple appreciable moments that dig just below the mid-bass.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

The following are only available on the Blu-ray disc and shared with the DVD home release.

Audio Commentary: Director Brian Fee is joined creative director Jay Ward and producers Kevin Reher and Andrea Warren for an enlightening discussion on the production's technical aspects, each of their involvement in the franchise, the characters, and the plot's themes.

Lou (HD, 7 min): Pixar's usual short animated film that preceded the movie in theaters.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

Disc One

Cruz Ramirez: The Yellow Car That Could (HD, 8 min): A look at the design and voicing of the latest character added to the franchise.

Ready for the Race (HD, 6 min): Interview with young stock car racing driver William Byron.

Miss Fritter’s Racing School (HD, 3 min): An amusing commercial for aged cars.

Disc Two

Behind the Scenes (HD): Short five-part documentary detailing the entire production, from plot inception, various themes and character development to designing a race sequence, influences from real-life racing, creating a fictional world that feels real and the toyline related to the film.

Generations: The Story of Cars 3 (11 min).

Let's. Get. Crazy. (8 min).

Cars to Die(cast) For (5 min).

Legendary (11 min).

World's Fastest Billboard (6 min).

Miss Fritter’s Racing School (HD): A quick tour through three CG sequences.

Thomasville (1 min).

Florida International Speedway (1 min).

Rust-Eze Racing Center (1 min).

My First Car (HD): Cast & crew interviews sharing memories of owning their first cars.

A Green Car on the Red Carpet with Kerry Washington (1 min).

Old Blue (1 min).

Still in the Family (2 min).

Promos (HD): Cast & crew interviews sharing memories of owning their first cars.

Deleted Scenes (HD, 26 min): Cast & crew interviews sharing memories of owning their first cars.

Trailers (HD).

Final Thoughts

After the disappointing misguided decision to modify the series for part two, the mechanics at Pixar wisely rebuilt the CG animated sports comedy with original classic parts for Cars 3. As a result, the franchise's third installment manages a decisive but also astonishing victory over its predecessor, racing to the finish line with emotional epiphanies and encouraging words for audiences of all ages. The Ultra HD Blu-ray crashes to a screeching halt with a gorgeous 4K video presentation and a demo-worthy Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Packing a wealth of supplements in the trunk, the overall package is a winner for fans of the franchise and makes for a strong rental for the curious.

Technical Specs

  • Two-Disc UHD Combo Pack
  • UHD-66 Dual-Layer Disc / BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
  • Region Free

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 2160p HEVC/H.265

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.39:1

Audio Formats

  • English Dolby Atmos
  • English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
  • English Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
  • French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
  • Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH, French, Spanish

Supplements

  • Audio Commentary
  • Featurette

Exclusive HD Content

  • Featurette
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Trailers
  • UltraViolet Digital Copy
  • Blu-ray Copy

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.

List Price
$44.99
Amazon
$19.96 (56%)
3rd Party
$15.77
Temporarily out of stock. Order now and we'll deliver when available. We'll e-mail you with an estimated delivery date as soon as we have more information. Your credit card will not be charged until we ship the item. Buy Now»