NOW IN THEATERS! Ross Venokur’s animated feature, Rally Road Racers, is definitely meant for the younger set. It will teach kids to dream big with race cars and cute animals. The film is about Zhi (Jimmy O. Yang), a small and lovable loris who dreams of one day becoming an auto racer like his deceased mother. Fearful that he might befall the same fate, Zhi’s grandmother, Granny Bai (Lisa Lu), insists that he finds a new hobby and teaches him to slow down in many aspects of his life.
Meanwhile, the evil toad, Archie Vainglorious (John Cleese), is about to tear down Granny Bai’s home turning it and the surrounding homes into a muddy resort. Desperate to save his Granny’s abode, Zhi bets Vainglorious that if he beats him in the upcoming four-day Silk Road Rally, Granny can keep her home free and clear. But if he loses, Zhi becomes that spokes-puppet for Vainglorious when he takes over the lorises’ land.
As far as an animated film for kids goes, Rally Road Racers is basic. I’ve already mentioned the cute animals and race cars. There’s also the standard cartoon slapstick and other car-racing schtick. With the high-speed antics, much of the action reminds me of the Looney Tunes hilarious-yet-dangerous shorts of my childhood. Also safe for the kids are the themes of following your dreams, taking things slow, and finding discipline in one’s ventures.
“…Zhi bets Vainglorious that if he beats him in the upcoming four-day Silk Road Rally, Granny can keep her home…”
The overly eager Zhi meets the racer-turned-mechanic Gnash (J.K. Simmons) and hopes he’ll teach him to become a professional driver on the grueling course. Gnash observes not only Zhi’s flawed techniques in driving but also his tendencies that prevent him from becoming a true driver. Then there’s the girl, Shelby (Chloe Bennet), who is also a racer and instantly likes Zhi. Of course, there will be something more here.
Running with this “basic” theme, the animation is good, but not Pixar quality. The simple 3D characters have a Blue Sky and Dreamworks style to their designs. In addition, much of the 3D action is set against a 2d backdrop. All this to say, Rally Road Racers looks inexpensive compared to the incredible detail you associate with the giant of CGI animation.
One thing that stuck out as original is that the setting is in China. In fact, the Silk Road Rally ends in Shanghai. The lorises are all played by Chinese-English actors Jimmy O. Yang, Lisa Lu, and Chloe Bennet. The rest of the animal kingdoms are played by the likes of J.K. Simmons, John Cleese, and Katherine Tate.
Rally Road Racers may not change the world or elevate the art form of animated features. Instead, it’s one of those films my kid would watch over and over again. It is good, wholesome fun, with some classic actors to help appease the parents looking for things to do with their kids.
"…good, wholesome fun, with some classic actors to help appease the parents..."