Having witnessed the success of franchises bases on children's TV shows,
Mattel decided that they would try their hand at it. They decided
to try to build a franchise out their Hot Wheels toys. To that end
they have come up the "Highway 35 World Race" line of cars and a good number
of tie-ins. In addition to the 35 different Hot Wheel cars themselves,
you can buy a World Race video game for PS2, Game Boy, Game Cube or PC,
several World Race car tracks, and even a World Race wireless video camera.
But the driving force (if you'll excuse the awful pun) behind the sales
of these other items is the World Race television show. The
only problem is that it hasn't been picked up for syndication. The
first (and second?) episodes have been released by Mattel packaged with
two cars from the series. I can only assume that the interest from
that promotion was not enough to generate a television contract because
Mattel has now spliced together the first five episodes of the show and
released it on DVD as a movie.
Aimed at younger children, the plot is fairly simple. Dr. Peter
Tesla has discovered a new dimension that is filled with roads. He
calls this other dimension "Highway 35." (Why he named this other
dimension after the interstate freeway outside of Ames, Iowa is beyond
me.) Translating a fragment of an artifact he discovered, Dr. Tesla
finds out that at the end of Highway 35 is an object, the Ring of Power.
So the good doctor builds supercharged race cars that might be able to
transverse the tricks and traps on Highway 35, and recruits drivers to
pilot them. Split up into five teams these drivers are racing to
see who will be the first to grab the Ring of Power and be named "Best
Driver in the World." Oh yea, and the winning team members get $5,000,000
each. But it is not as easy as it sounds. In addition to the
traps on the highway, there is a mysterious driver in black, Zed-36, who
is sabotaging the race.
I viewed this movie with my two sons, aged 7 and 11, figuring they were
the target audience. It was a hit, with both of them really enjoying
it, though my younger son appreciated it a little more than the older one.
And what's not to like? There are some very cool cars. The
cars go fast, there isn't a love interest, and no one dies or gets hurt.
Each team's cars hava a different special talent that helps them out of
jams. (The cars that could fly were favorites at my house.)
The hazards and jumps that they have to make are sufficiently interesting
especially the 'rotating wheel of death' (my son's name for it.)
This is just the thing for prepubescent boys.
I didn't hear and disparaging comments about the animation from my two
assistant reviewers, though I was not impressed. The entire series
was done with CGI, and it looked like it was done on the cheap. The
cars did look very nice. They were shiny and covered in chrome or
bright colors. The people on the other hand did not look very good.
They didn't appear natural, and had a flat, two dimensional look.
Of course, people are among the hardest thing to animate on computers.
The show looked similar to the old Action Man TV program, which didn't
look that good when it was on a couple of years ago. Luckily, the
show is about the cars, and they get most of the screen time.
I also found the movie a little monotonous. Clocking in at almost two
hours, the races seemed to go on and on. While they took place in
different climates (desert, snow, mountains) they seemed to blend together
after a while. (I was also bothered by the fact that no one noticed
that the laws of physics seemed to work differently in this other dimension.
Oh well, no one ever notices that Porky Pig doesn't wear pants either.)
I have sat through movies that I thought were much worse than this one
with my kids. I actually liked it for the most part. If it
were up to me, I'd cut about half an hour out, but my boys liked it just
the way it was.
You have your choice between a 5.1 or stereo digital mixes. There
didn't seem to be a whole lot of difference between the two. The
5.1 mix used the rear channels only sparingly, and the subwoofer hardly
at all. After the first big explosion, I even checked to make sure
that my sub was turned on. The sound was flat and thin. It
didn't envelope you. This movie has avalanches, explosions, crashing
bridges, and lava flows, but the sound effects were never very powerful.
The music was tinny with not a lot of bass. The music videos included
on the disc sounded much better than the movie soundtrack did.
Though it was not dynamic, the sound was clear and did not have any
There are optional English and Spanish subtitles on the disc.
One really nice thing about this DVD is that you could select between
full frame and 16X9 anamorphic widescreen. Both are on the same side
of the disc. I viewed the widescreen version, and spot checked the
full frame. Both seemed to have identical video quality. The
movie looked very good. It was clean and clear, without distracting
artifacts of print damage. Being such a recent movie, that is to
be expected, but it's always nice when expectations are met.
Considering that it was a children's movie, and the low retail price,
I was expecting a bare bones disc, but this DVD has a nice set of extras.
Interactive Garage: A text
based piece with animated intro that gives specks for all 35 cars featured
in the show and available to purchase in the "Highway 35 World Race" set.
It also has the background history of the driver, though several of them
were not seen in the movie at all.
Music Videos: All of these
videos consist of footage from the movie set to the music. The musicians
do not appear at all.
Hot by Smash Mouth. The very
catchy theme song to the movie. I had to play this one a couple of
times after the movie while the kids danced around.
Scorcher's Theme, Road Beasts Theme, Dune
Ratz Theme, Street Breed Theme and Wave Ripper Theme all by
Ball of Waxx. These are two minute instrumental themes for the five
racing teams in the movie. While not as catchy as Hot, they
were enjoyable and had clips from the best parts of the movie.
Trailers: A trailer for Rescue
Heroes: The Movie and a World Race Ultimate Track Set TV commercial.
This was a fun, mindless movie. The cars were very nice looking,
and the action was fast, even if it didn't vary too much. Though
the quality of animation was not very high, my children didn't seem to
notice, or if they did, they didn't care. The sound did not have
much kick to it, which is a shame, but sounded good in any case.
Younger children are sure to appreciate it, as will Hot Wheels fans.
Recommended for those groups.