Born A Toretto
Ghost Town Grand Prix
The Owl Job
The Celestial Vault
The Final Key
The Key to the Strip
Ever since Fast 5 released back in 2011, The Fast & Furious franchise has always felt like a live-action cartoon. The increasingly elaborate plans, the unbelievable, physic-defying stunts and popcorn-munching action was underlined in Hobbs and Shaw which really embraced this ridiculousness when it released earlier this year. Fast & Furious: Spy Racers takes this one step further, adding elements from Spy Kids and Carmen Sandiego and spinning that into a surprisingly engrossing and enjoyable 8-episode first season. The result is something that sets the foundation for future seasons to follow and paints a neon-bright future of street racing on the small screen.
The story wastes no time getting right to the heart of the drama with Dom’s cousin Tony Toretto recruited to work as an undercover agent for Ms Nowhere. The target is a group known as SH1FT3R, fronted by the mysterious Shashi who has an elaborate, world-ending plot that becomes more clear and apparent later on down the line. The first episode acts as an introduction to the characters and world, with a guest appearance from a special family-man for good measure. From here, Tony and his crew work together and infiltrate SH1FT3R, where they work alongside Shashi’s right-hand woman Layla to learn more about this world-ending scheme. All of this builds toward a suitably climactic finale that closes out most of the plot threads while leaving a tiny snippet of hope for a second season to follow.
Kids are absolutely obsessed with shows involving cars and vehicles so it should come as no surprise that Spy Racers settles right in and makes a home for itself on Netflix. Taking the best elements from fellow animations like Dinotrux and Paw Patrol, Spy Racers adds split screens, blueprints and on-screen text for each accompanying race and mission to help engage its audience. The show feels surprisingly faithful to the film adaptation too, of course tailoring its content for the specific age group which feels more for boys but anyone above the age of 8 or 9 should enjoy this one.
Aesthetically, Spy Racers looks great. The character models are pretty detailed while the background for scenes are deliberate and engaging, ranging from secret agent Gary watching cat pictures on his monitor to a high-rise apartment in Las Vegas with reflective glass and birds flying past. These little touches add to some of the racing action which sees raindrops, dust and mud kicked up and spraying onto the side of the camera. There are also some clever zooms, aerial shots and quick-cuts to make Fast & Furious: Spy Racers a surprisingly engaging and enjoyable thrill ride.
If there’s one gripe I do have with the show it comes from the subtitles. Oftentimes characters elaborate on lines from their script and while this does help to give the dialogue an air of authenticity, for those with hearing problems some of these changes are pretty big. The jokes feel a lot more natural with the speech, elaborating certain phrases beyond what’s written for the on-screen subtitles. It’s not a deal breaker but some of these segments I did go through and watch on mute to check the difference and while small, it will play a noticeable part for some kids who won’t get the full effect.
Will Spy Racers return for a second season? Based on this showing I’d say that’s entirely possible. Kids will certainly love the blending of espionage spy exploits and the more action-driven car chases, and this combines nicely with some suitable jokes for kids to keep the action feeling lighthearted. The final few episodes do feel a little cliched in terms of villain motivations and cataclysmic end-of-the-world stuff but this is a minor gripe in an otherwise solid season. If you’re looking for a decent animated title to engage the kids, Spy Racers is well worth a watch.
Verdict - 7/10