A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Team Hot Wheels: The Origin of Awesome introduces a new line of characters, cars, and linked products in Mattel's nearly half-century-old Hot Wheels franchise. Much more than a generic toy advertisement, however, this movie's goal is to stand on its own as quality comic entertainment. Only very young kids, not yet fully aware of the difference between cartoon and real action, will find anything scary. The not-so-villainous bad guys are funny rather than evil: for example, a gigantic, rampaging Abe Lincoln and a huge pizza that bites back. Of course, the film has the necessary Hot Wheels features: speedy cars, a fast pace, noisy crashes and booms. And there's some potty humor ("poop," "butt kickers") along with a scattering of burps and farts. Significant, respectful ethnic diversity enhances the comedy. Still, all the main human characters are male.
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What's the story?
When a sinister black car shows up in their quiet hometown, releasing endless orange Hot Wheels tracks in the sky along with stifling clouds of fuchsia smoke and mutant monsters, Team Hot Wheels is called into action. The four kid drivers on the Team are classic "types": Gage, the speedster (voiced by Grant George); Rhett, a New Age guru who's in touch with his karmic "chi" (voiced by David Lodge); Wyatt, a full-of-himself Southern stunt man (voiced by Nicholas Roye); and Brandon, a gadget geek-brainiac (voiced by Ben Diskin). Guided by their mentor, adult mechanic Larry (voiced by Faruq Tauheed), the team must quit squabbling among themselves and then band together to stop that black car and save the townspeople from disaster.
Is it any good?
This movie has distinctive characters and fine performances all around, very funny writing, crisp and inventive animation, and plenty of comic action. The jokes arrive as fast as the cars (for example, a shark receiving the Heimlich maneuver, and a "gator-whisperer"). The mischief makers are wonderfully clever, all familiar-but-mutated animals, people, and objects. Larry, the Team coach, and his robotic sidekick add to the fun. Be forewarned, it's a bit long and the messages may get repetitious, but the movie's virtues outweigh its minor flaws.
It's an interesting concept: selling traditional, well-known, and beloved toys by releasing a very funny, character-driven movie that will appeal to adults as well as kids and that will hold up for repeated viewings. The Lego Movie did it but with a much bigger budget, movie stars, and a major studio launch. TEAM HOT WHEELS: THE ORIGIN OF AWESOME manages to accomplish a similar feat on a smaller scale.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the villains (antagonists) in this movie. How are they different from the bad guys in most animated movies? Are they meant to be scary?
What is Boss Larry's goal for the team in this movie? How does he accomplish it?
Create your own car and driver who might join Team Hot Wheels. What special skill could your driver have? How would that skill help the Team?
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