From the sublime the previous night to the silly. But once you get past the somewhat offensive nature of some of the characters and the absurd and inconsistent world the characters are in (which, honestly, most children’s animation inhabits), this ends up being an amusing riff on the super-hero origins theme.

I realize that is a lot of caveats, and I won’t retract them. I really had low expectations going into this film… and it managed to surprise me with just enough dry, adult humor to keep me interested. If Dreamworks could get some better writers and directors in their animation department, they’d become a reasonable force against Disney, Blue Sky, or even Pixar (which is becoming more Disney by the day, sadly). They clearly have the tech, they just need the talent to use it. This particular script was the odd marriage of writers Siegel (The Wrestler) and Lemke (Jack the Giant Slayer), with a bit of writer/director Soren (Shark Tale) thrown in. The result was juvenile more often than engaging.

Despite script and story problems, clearly the studio can attract good voice talent. The roster in the film is impressive and executed relatively well. Reynolds (RIPD, Buried) and Giamatti (John Dies at the End, The Ides of March), as snail brothers, played well. Jackson (The Avengers) has a nice supporting role as the racing group leader. Pena (Tower Heist) was a slightly over-broad dream seeker, but was consistent and had heart. Many other names and voices will catch you as well.

I do wish some of the choices around their ethnic cliches had been reconsidered . Fortunately, despite the wrong steps they took, they managed to take just enough right ones to shift the balance.

This is far from the best animation you’ll see. In its peer group you’re better off spending time with something like The Croods. But if you run out of material, it isn’t a total waste and it has a lot of 3D roller-coaster, if you are looking for that as well.¬†

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