Disney takes over Pixar's "World of Cars" with this spin-off that no-one really asked for (Cars 2 wasn't exactly a mega-hit). Indeed, this is an essentially disposable adventure, smiley and formulaic with a few minor thrills and a gentle sense of humour. Fortunately, the animation has some charm, as well as the occasional exhilarating moment. So kids are likely to enjoy it.
The protagonist is Dusty (voiced by Cook), a cropduster in rural America who dreams of racing against world champion Ripslinger (Smith) in the Wings Around the Globe race. So he gathers forklift Dottie (Hatcher) and fuel truck Chug (Garrett) as his pit crew, and convinces war veteran Skipper (Keach) to coach him. Despite being afraid of heights, he makes it into the final against Britain's Bulldog (Cleese), Mexico's Chupacabra (Alazraqui) and French-Canadian Rochelle (Louis-Deryfus). But as the race gets underway, Ripslinger and his henchmen continually sabotage the increasingly plucky Dusty.
The plot is so simple that this feels like one of Disney's straight-to-DVD sequels, complete with the deeply bland hero and ruthlessly evil villain. Fortunately, it's livened up by snappy dialog and a cast of offbeat characters that continually add deranged touches adult viewers will enjoy (such as a German forklift in lederhosen or a group of chanting Himalayan-monk tuktuks). There's not much else the strong voice cast can do with these characters. But the animators have a lot of fun with the settings as the race zooms to Europe, India, Nepal, China and Mexico, with whizzy race action that makes the 3D worthwhile for a change.
Frankly, the World of Cars has always been a bit creepy, as these vehicles inexplicably exist without the need for humans. But children aren't likely to worry about that when the movie is this silly and fast-paced. They also won't mind that terrific comics like Cleese, Louis-Dreyfus and Garrett have been given so little to do with their talent. And the plasticky animation will only make them want to buy a set of tie-in toys to play with. Yes, Disney knows exactly what it's doing. So don't be surprised when Trains and Boats come along.