I’ve experienced a weird phenomenon as a parent of young children: there are certain movies I liked well enough when I saw them before I had kids, but if I watch them again with my son or daughter and THEY become huge fans, then my feelings will change. As in, I’ll have a whole new appreciation for the movie if it can keep both me and my kids entertained.

This is what happened with 2006’s Cars. I enjoyed it more than some adults because my entire family works in the auto industry, so a love for anything on wheels is kind of in my blood. But man oh man, I couldn’t stand the character of Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). And I certainly would never watch the movie again on my own.

Fast-forward nearly a decade to when I first watched the original Cars with my son. He was enthralled by the inhabitants of Radiator Springs, and simply watching him laugh and cheer and recite lines made me indescribably happy. Even Mater grew on me, so much so that a picture now exists of me kissing him (or rather the life-sized version of him at Disneyland).

But Cars 2 was a different story. I wasn’t a fan, and I didn’t feel much of it was appropriate for young kids. I didn’t let my son watch it. So as soon as I heard Cars 3 was in development, I started praying to the Pixar gods that the franchise would return to its roots. Thankfully, it did. This time around, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is being swept aside by a new, high-tech type of racecar, and one in particular — Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) — makes Lightning reconsider whether he should still be on the track.

But OF COURSE he should, and so the old gang — including Mater and Lightning’s girlfriend-of-sorts, Sally (Bonnie Hunt) — reassembles to cheer him on.

He gets a young, high-energy trainer named Cruz (Cristela Alonzo, whose energy is palpable), and together they start preparing for the next big race that will determine whether or not it’s time for Lightning to retire.

I am impressed that Cars 3’s director, Brian Fee (who was a storyboard artist on the second film), and writers (Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich) were able to introduce a major female character who fit in wonderfully while still having room for Lightning and other fan favorites. Though my wallet is begging for mercy at this point — there are only so many movie-inspired toys a parent can say OK to before their house starts being overrun…

My family and I ended up seeing Cars 3 three times in the theater, and my daughter loved it just as much as my son. Whether you know the other movies’ lines by heart like we do, or whether you’ve never seen the other films, my bet is that you will enjoy this latest check-in with the Radiator Springs crew, too. KA-CHOW!