Review: Rally Road Racers is a perfectly mild children’s movie, but it doesn’t deliver the same generational experience that other animated movies have in recent years.
Rally Road Racers is the latest movie from Vanguard Animation (Valiant, Space Chimps), and is directed by Ross Venokur. The movie follows a tiny slow loris as he tries to beat the odds and win the annual rally car circuit, completing his dreams of becoming a professional race car driver.
Rally Road Racers doesn’t offer much beyond being a palatable kids movie that goes down easily. Light on stakes and emotion, the film works strictly on the premise that working faster beats working harder. It’s easier to reconcile this notion given the premise of Rally Road Racers, which goes hand-in-hand with the breakneck speed with which it’s told.
The movie follows Zhi (Jimmy O. Yang), an aspiring race car driving slow loris trying to save the home his family has occupied for generations. To do so, he enters the rally car circuit where he’s pitted against some of the most accomplished drivers from around the world. Among them is Archie Vainglorious (John Cleese), the toad responsible for the possible demolition of Zhi’s humble abode.
Along the way, Zhi recruits a gang of friends. This includes the former driver-turned-mechanic Gnash (J.K. Simmons) and fellow slow loris Shelby (Chloe Bennet). The team enters the competition, where hijinks occur, and Zhi tries to save his family’s property.
Read reviews for movies like Rally Road Racers
There isn’t much to Rally Road Racers that isn’t mentioned in that summary. It’s rather straightforward, offering a narrative that kids will surely be able to follow and find interesting. I actually had a few flashbacks of playing Crash Nitro Kart while watching this because of the rambunctious character designs and racing montages.
The art style is unique, one that I couldn’t tell worked or not. At times, it has this polished, candy-coated vividness that I admired, but at other times it hardly looked finished. Some of the settings felt paper-thin, as if the characters were in front of these lifeless, artificial walls. In that sense, perhaps the equivalent of an eroded The Bad Guys imposter with a mix of character design from other typical Vanguard Animation projects.
And typically, this is what I look for in animated movies specifically meant for children. I want the animation to look impressive, not cobbled together in an uninspired fashion. Rally Road Racers struggles to convey the idea that the producers expected a box office hit, or even a VOD resurgence. I rented it on the proposition that it may look good just from seeing a few of the screenshots. It doesn’t even really do that, to which I respond by saying that I was disappointed.
Some of the voice work here attempts to turn this thing around. Jimmy O. Yang has an easy delivery that works well to calm the senses, and John Cleese voices a reputable bad guy. J.K. Simmons is certainly making a few choices here with his accent – I’m just hoping he got a fat check for lending his talents to this.
Overall, it’s just not that interesting or salvageable as a concept. The story feels generic, and the animation style doesn’t help to elevate it. Rally Road Racers is another bland, unimaginative entry into a genre that’s had a rough 2023. Here’s to hoping we get better animated movies to close out the year.
Where to watch Rally Road Racers: VOD
Rally Road Racers Film Cast and Credits
Jimmy O. Yang as Zhi
Lisa Lu as Granny Bai
Chloe Bennet as Shelby
J.K. Simmons as Gnash
Catherine Tate as Juni Hakansdotter
John Cleese as Archie Vainglorious
Director: Ross Venokur
Writer: Ross Venokur
Cinematography: Alexei Nechytaylo
Editor: Adam Garner
Composer: Tom Howe
Rally Road Racers movie on Letterboxd
Rally Road Racers movie on IMDb