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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Hot Wheels - World Race
Hot Wheels - World Race
Artisan // Unrated // December 2, 2003
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted December 12, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

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.

The DVD:



Audio:

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 noise.

There are optional English and Spanish subtitles on the disc.

Video:

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.

The Extras:

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.

Final Thoughts:

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.

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