Animated family films are a tough cookie to crack and outside of your Illumination, Pixar and Disney, as well as the occasional Universal/ Dreamworks effort, quality is not something you stumble upon all that often. Enter Rally Road Racers, an animated film which, while not igniting all that much excitement with its story and pacing, just about manages to move through the gears enough to warrant a cinema trip with the youngsters.
Set in China, the narrative revolves around young speed enthusiasts Zhi (Jimmy O Yang) who dreams of making it as a racing car driver. However he’s a loris, a small mammal mostly found in south-eat Asia and his granny (Lisa Lu) isn’t too hot on the prospect. However, that doesn’t stop Zhi as he sets his sights on the big time, speeding around on push bikes at a young age to moving on up to big cars as he gets older. One day, the villainous Archie Vainglorious (John Cleese) enters the frame, a dastardly toad (and world-class racing driver) who is threatening Zhi’s grandmother’s home with demolition unless a debt is paid off in time. Desperate to avoid Vainglorious and his company flattening her beloved home to build luxury new homes, Zhi offers the toad a challenge; to enter the prestigious Silk Road Rally and beat the champ. His wish if he does so for Vainglorious to call off his plans to take away granny’s property and those of her neighbours.
It’s your typical David and Goliath story, mixed with a bit of Wacky Races, Cars and yep, Rocky. The ‘Mickey’ character here is JK Simmons’ Gnash, a former racing champ who has the knowledge and know how to train Zhi to become a speed car legend, and win the ultimate race of races in the Silk Road Rally. Simmons is excellent, of course, though sports an oddly placed accent throughout, while emerging talent O Yang (seen in the likes of Crazy Rich Asians and this year’s octogenarian comedy 80 For Brady) is also solid in the lead as Zhi.
These days, animated movies of this kind tend to work in a number of different ways at the same time. A perfect example being this year’s stand-out Pixar film Elemental which manages to work on two levels; one as a pleasing adventure for the younger crowd, and the other for us big kids, selling us themes and thought-provoking subject matter, as well as having that lightening bolt raw emotion, reducing one and all to tears of joy and sadness. Rally Road Racers is streets away from anything like that, but with nods that’ll bring a smile to viewers of a certain age – a specific stand-out being a sequence referencing A-ha’s’Take On Me’ music video from the 1980s – and an exciting, very well animated visuals that whips along at a pace, there’s a lot to like about the film. It’s certainly a welcomed stop gap between the kid-pleasing blockbusters from the summer and the forthcoming October and Christmas-lead-up half term when the next big budget family flicks roll into town.
Rally Road Racers is released in UK cinemas on 15th September.
Rally Road Racers
Miles away from the big budget animated movies from the big studios, but there’s just enough excitement for kids and adults alike to get over those post summer blues.