My five year old daughter just asked me to read to her a “Cars” book. As I read the book and reminisced about the movie, I knew the next movie on the blog should be “Cars.” I remember watching this movie years ago… Like before kids. But I didn’t realize we had never watched the original with my kids. Let’s just say they really enjoyed the movie! And it really is fun to see your kids love characters you once loved. So, let’s dive in.
(If you’ve recently seen this movie, feel free to jump ahead to the Christian Parallels.)
The movie opens as our star is giving himself a per-race pep talk. “Ok. Here we go. Focus. Speed. I am speed. One winner. 42 losers. I eat losers for breakfast. Wait, maybe I should have had breakfast…”
We quickly learn McQueen is a cocky rookie race car who can’t keep a pit crew because he doesn’t see a need for them. He’s a one-man show.
As the race begins, we are told that the front runners are the veteran Strip “The King” Weathers, who is in his final season, Chick Hicks, who plays dirty, and a rookie one-man show Lightning McQueen. Throughout the race, McQueen has the lead. But this is partly due to ignorance as he refuses to let his pit crew do anything other than fill him up. Just before he reaches the finish, both of his rear tires blow out. McQueen rolls to the finish line on his rims and sticks out his tongue as both The King and Chick Hicks cross the finish line.
Since there is a three-way tie for the Piston Cup title, another race will be held to determine the winner. Chick Hicks teases Lightning that the first person to California gets Dinoco. Dinoco is The King’s sponsor. And Dinoco is what McQueen wants. He dreams of this sponsorship. The money. The fame. The amenities.
He practically squawks when he is asked to give his speech to the Rust-Eze guys who currently sponsor him. All he can see is a bright and flashy future. And he’s so determined to get that future.
He begins the trip to California immediately with his big rig, Mack. During the transit, Lightning gets a call from his manager, Harv. Now, Lightning is excited to talk to Harv, but Harv mentions that he didn’t even see the race. He tells him that if he keeps this up, he will get a deal with Dinoco. Ask him who is friends are. Then reminds him that he gets a percentage of his winnings. Lightning is even more determined to get to that race early. So much so, that he doesn’t allow Mack to stop to rest. As a result, Mack falls asleep. By a series of unfortunate events, Lightning comes out of the trailer and is thrown into the open interstate.
Once he realizes what has happened, he looks for Mack. Somehow, he ends up in Radiator Springs and has destroyed the town’s road.
Originally the town’s judge, Doc, insists that Lightning leave town immediately. But Sally, the local lawyer, insists that they have a town worth fixing. Therefore, Lightning should have to fix the roads he damaged.
So reluctantly, Lightning takes on the job. Well after trying to run away (and running out of gas) and attempting to do a quick and messy road fix. He is determined to do his job and get to California. Slowly, he gets to know the cars in the town. And slowly, he starts to smile.
After McQueen’s horrible job on the road, Doc tells him that if he can beat him in a race, he can leave. Lightning quickly takes the challenge. Doc doesn’t even leave the start line. He knows that the arrogant rookie will crash. And he does. He tries to give McQueen some advice, but Lightning laughs at him. Matter pulls Lightning out of his hole, and Lightning gets back to work on the roads. The next morning, the town wakes up to see that Lightning is actually doing pretty good job on the road repairs.
As a genuine friendship begins to form between Lightning and Mater, Sally and Doc both tell Lightning how good and trusting the “people” are in this town. Lighting soon finds out the Doc is The Hudson Hornet and has three Piston Cups. But Doc tells him they’re just empty cups. We learn, Doc was forced to quit racing after trying to return to the track after an accident. Lightning can’t understand why he would want to keep his glory days a secret. But he soon sees why he chooses to stay in Radiator Springs, a town that used to be a huge stopping point along Route 66, that is now avoided to save 10 minutes of a drive by using the interstate.
Mater takes Lightning tractor tipping. Sally takes him on a drive. Before we know it, Lightning is beginning to change. But then, he is found out. The helicopter, the poparatzi, the news crews. They swarm Lightning McQueen and he is forced to quickly say goodbye to his new friends.
Lightning McQueen is off his game for the race. He keeps thinking about his friends back in Radiator Springs. Then he hears Doc voice. He is encouraged. He is determined. He makes up laps. He stops for speedy tire changes and fuel. He not only uses his pit crew, he trusts them.
McQueen has the Piston Cup in the bag. He is about to ease across the finish line as the first place victor, when he sees The King has broken down. McQueen slams on the brakes and lets Chick win the race. Then he turns around and pushes The King to the finish line. He says, “I think the King should finish his last race.” With that, the race is completed. And the crowd goes wild.
Chick is tooting his own horn. Throwing his own party. No one seems to care except him. Everyone is congratulating The King on his finish.
McQueen has finally learned, it’s not just winners and losers on the track, they are other racers.
As Lightning pulls into his tent area after the race, the owner of Dinoco has a talk with him about coming over to them even though he didn’t win. Lightning politely declines stating that he is choosing to stay with the Rust-Eze’s guys who gave him his start.
This story of Lightning McQueen’s transformation warms my heart. We have this prideful, arrogant, envious, rookie racer whose only goal is to make more money and have a bigger name for himself.
AHEM! Hello, sin. Pride. I am the best. I don’t need anyone else. I can do it all on my own. I don’t need to listen to anyone else for advice.
Welcome, envy. Even though I am a professional race car, I want a better sponsorship. I don’t like these guys who gave me a start, I want all the glitz and glamor.
What is the result of his pride and envy? A lack of reality. A lack of friendship. A lack of life.
Then by a series of unfortunate events, Lightning ends up exactly where needs to be to find purpose.
On the surface, this movie is about friendship. And that’s a good message. We need to have people in our lives who support us, love us, and encourage us to be better. We also need to be that person to others.
Christians also need those relationships. We need people supporting us, pointing us in the right direction, calling us out on our sins, and pointing us towards the light. We need encouraged, built up, and shown how to walk with Christ.
Once Lightning discovers that he is not the only thing in the world that matters, he develops friendships. He begins to truly live. He sees just how beautiful the area around Radiator Springs real is. He sees the other cars as people who also have desires and needs.
His change of perspective is the turning point in the whole movie. His desires have changed. He once only cared about himself and advancing himself, now he cares about the greater good.
The same is true of a Christian perspective. Once we realize every person on earth was a created being of the almighty Creator, we can see them the way God sees them- perfectly and wonderfully made yet living in a very broken and fallen world.
Lightning McQueen’s transformation couldn’t be a better picture of a life with Christ. We were made for relationships. First with God. Then with others. Once we begin to recognize that and embrace that, our focuses change. Our desires change. God’s will becomes your will.
Why would Lightning selflessly give up the championship for veteran? It doesn’t make worldly sense, but it makes perfect sense when you are looking to another standard. You too will see a shift that doesn’t make any sense but complete sense at the same time. You are not held to the world’s standards. You are held to God’s.
Maybe you are feeling led to stay at home with your kids. (Been there.) Maybe you are feeling led to go on a mission trip…. Or maybe to take in foster children… or donate more money… Volunteer more… commit to a church home…
I have no idea how your desires are changing, but I guarantee as you grow in relationship with God, they are.
Maybe you are being convicted of your own pride and learning to humble yourself. Maybe you are being convicted of your own envy, so you are praying to be happy with what you have. As I re-watched this movie, I really homed in on Lightning’s attitude towards Rust-Eze. This is something I overlooked before. He had a good sponsor. He had a good career. He didn’t care. He saw the grass as greener on the other side. Dinoco looked so great that he was ungrateful for what he did have.
We fall into this trap all too often. Just because the grass is greener on the other side, doesn’t mean it’s better or easier. If you want greener grass, water your own lawn. Be grateful for what you do have and make it the best you can.
We are all in this race of life. But in this race, it doesn’t matter who comes in first. For the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Our goal is to cross that finish line and bring as many people with us in the process. Keep your eye on the prize- eternal life with Christ!