Film Review: “Racetime” (2018) ★★★

What do we normally want our children to see in an animated movie? What kind of message they should take away from it? What is the best scene they need to pay attention to? All these questions are always vital when it comes to educating our children through the silver screen, when apart from what we tell or what the school teaches, the animated characters play the role of an educator who can be way more effective and influential than we anticipate.

What I mainly loved about “Racetime”, and without exaggerating I guarantee you will enjoy as well, is that it provides a positive atmosphere, it explains that any foe can be defeated, but not by force but with kindness and an open heart. We know that Zac is evil, he cheats, and sometimes his unthinkable actions could bring much more devastating results if it was real life. But then, we see his other side, the side where he does not smile as a bad guy but cries as a lonely and abandoned child by his parents who goes to the train station hoping one day they may arrive to greet and even hug him. Indeed, his loneliness, or how he likes to say, “I am not lonely, I am alone” does not justify the bad things he does, but the film specifically pays attention to what exactly lacks in his life and what genuine friendship would have given him if not for the unfortunate events that have and continue occurring in his life.

Just to get straight to the point, “Racetime” is based on 1984’s “The Dog Who Stopped the War” and adapted for the silver screen through the script written by Claude Landry, Maxime Landry, and Parul Risacher. It has been directed by Benoit Godbout (director), François Brisson (co-director), and Jean-François Pouliot (consulting director). The animated film takes us to a small village where children are preparing for a race. Frankie-Four-Eyes is a local genius who is certain in his ability to win any race with Sophie as his driver. But the race gets an unpredictable result when Zac, willfully, damages the fantastic sled designed by Frankie which disintegrates right before crossing the finish line. Frankie does not know yet that it was all Zac’s evil effort and refuses to accept his loss demanding that there was no way the sled built by him could have fallen the way it did.

After getting himself into a spy mission to investigate the matter, Zac and his friends Violet, Nicky, and Chuck determine that it was indeed Zac’s fault and now, knowing the truth, Frankie demands for a rematch. But that’s the tricky part. Zac does not mind racing with Frankie once again, even though he will cheat again for sure, with the prize being much more than just a trophy – the barn that belongs to everyone in the village. But the crucial events occur not during the race, but what lead to it, why Zac is who he is, his reasons to believe that nobody needs him and why the necessity of engaging in dialogue is more important than flexing muscles and showing who is the strongest on Earth.

“Racetime” is a positive, kind, and a whole-hearted piece that every child should see. In fact, some scenes such as the mutual feeling between Charlie, Zac’s cousin who has a beautiful voice, and Chuck is so innocent that there is no need to worry about when the little ones see it. Nothing in the film can hurt or deliver a wrong message. In fact, the lines delivered by Frankie such as, “A genius can find the solution outside of the box” is the right line for children to hear. Because there are always moments when children get discouraged due to any failure, but thinking outside of that failure or discouragement can bring positive results.

In conclusion, some of you who have seen the film already may think that I went way beyond what the film had intended to show. However, I like to think that paying attention to the characters, to their life stories, attitude, manner of talking are much better than building a narrative around who is the best and who is the worst. Yes, there’s a race in this beautifully told animated film. But there’s a moral lesson as well which we all get from it. It’s just a matter of opening our hearts, eliminate all the unnecessary noise and keep an open mind about  what “Racetime” is really about and why some parents should think twice before leaving their children to prevent them from becoming like Zac, who will redeem himself but should not have had to if not for what the boy went through due to the neglect of his parents.

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