How would you feel about hearing John Cleese singing a-ha’s 1983 classic Take On Me? That’s just one of the unique selling points of this animated feature from writer/director Ross Venokur, which takes the spirit of the Cannonball Run films from the 80’s and updates it to the candy-coloured racing world of The Super Mario Movie. The latter film is by far the biggest film of the year so far at the box office, but while Rally Road Racers is a rather more humble proposition, it’s a cheerful, thankfully non-preachy cartoon that should work for young kids and families.
Released by the Viva Kids imprint, who successfully picked up The Amazing Maurice earlier this year, Rally Road Racers feels like it was conceived with one eye on the lucrative Chinese market; the hero is slow loris Zhi (Jimmy O. Yang), who, much like Turbo the snail, is obsessed with speed even though his species is generally slow off the mark. With a painted soup pot for a helmet, Zhi doesn’t have the look of a winner, but when the house belonging to his granny (Lisa Lu) is threatened with demolition in a classic Arthur Dent scenario, he aims to save the day by entering the Silk Road Rally in China. The capitalist monstrosity about to demolish granny’s abode is crazy frog Archie Vainglorious (Cleese in his ‘Cor Blimey’ Brit mode), who is also the organiser and star of the Silk Road Race; he makes the rules too, which include the competitors (including UK entry The British Invasion) being hit by a stream of missiles from the starting line; this is very much a Tex Avery style of animation, and all the better for it.
In passing, we see a poster for a film called ‘The Fast and The Furriest’, which might have been a more evocative title for this cheeky film; elsewhere there’s a few other grace notes including the inclusion of The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz, plus a car dashboard with a number of sabotage surprises including one marked Brexit and a smartly imagined scene which riffs on the classic Take on Me video by a-ha. Also appealing to adults is Zhi’s common interest in his granny’s Tai chi, which allows him to balance his chakras properly when the racing action begins; it’s a neat inclusion that gives Rally Road Racers the depth it requires. JK Simmons quite literally plays the goat here, while Chloe Bennet, Catherine Tate and Sharon Horgan make up a better-than-needed vocal cast.
‘Who let the frogs out?’ is the predictable stolen song here, but for all its many borrowings, Rally Road Racers adds up to a passable time-passer for twelve and unders with a dash of locally-sourced philosophy. ‘If you hit yourself and it hurts, does it mean you’re strong or weak?’ asks one character, but Zhi wins this wacky race naturally because ‘the plant knows how to grow.’ For fans of a cross country road-race, in the old Wacky Races style, Rally Road Racers should hold the attention of most kids right to the finish line.
Not likely to see this, but I did like Cars back in the day. A soft nope.
I liked this more than I did Cars 1, 2 or 3, but will aim to find something more up your street!
Still awaiting the list.
“The Fast and the Furriest” cracks me up.
Made me laugh, glad it worked for you too!
“a passable time-passer for twelve and unders”
I think I had better things to do when I was 12.
Name five such activities from your youth with pics please…
We didn’t have cameras back then. But the number one activity was mucking. Lots and lots of mucking.
Like mucking out a horse? Just out of Beau is Afraid, so just catching up…
I heard pretty mixed things about Beau, trending toward the bad.
I’ve never had anything to do with horses. Only cattle. Aren’t horse people posh? Do you ride to hounds?
I can see why it would draw that kind of press.
Animals can’t tell if we are posh or not, they never ask what school you went to.
I’ve had dogs that have queried a vet’s credentials.
What kind of criteria do they use?
They usually judge them on their bedside manner.
From where do they get this distrust of the servile classes?
Have you ever had your temperature taken by having a thermometer stuck in your bum?
Do you like films about gladiators? Have you ever been in a Turkish prison?
Have you ever been to sea?
In a ‘hello sailor’ way?
In a “sometimes the waves get so high, you can’t eat your fish!” way.
The more an industry tries to please a tyrant, the more power they give him. And eventually Xi will have enough power to control the movie industry, or the parts that matter. Be careful what you wish for, or you’ll end up with nothing but movies praising communism and how the greater good justifies anything.
This does have messages that should go down well in China like respect your elders. Fortunately I have a mind of my own, don’t take cues from movies and disrespect my elders at every opportunity.