Children six and under are the target audience for “The Hero of Color City,” and it’s pretty certain that anyone older than that will find the bland, though well-meaning animated fable a chore to endure.
Clearly inspired by “Toy Story,” though the very idea of inspiration seems out of place in view of the result, the script—credited to a quartet of writers—depends on the premise that a bunch of crayons come alive after the little boy who loves coloring with them goes to sleep each night. They jump into their box and are transported to Color City, where a rainbow river rejuvenates them and a special spa sharpens their tips.
One evening, Yellow (voiced by Christina Ricci), whose character, like that of all the crayons, is defined by her color and so is afraid of everything, gets lost and returns late to the box, pursued by two of the boy’s unfinished drawings, one of a mouthless, mute King and the other of a loquacious insect-like creature called Gnat (Craig Ferguson). They follow her to Color City, where they dam up the river in an attempt to color themselves to completion.
That prompts Yellow to undertake a dangerous mission to free the rainbow waters, the lack of which threatens all the city’s inhabitants. She’s joined by hotsy Red (Rosie Perez), courageous Blue (Wayne Brady), smart Green (Jess Harnell), diffident White (Jeremy Guskin) and dour Black (David Kaye), while Sheriff Horatio (Sean Astin) watches their progress via binoculars, accompanied by the frazzled Professor Heliotrope (Guskin again, doing a flamboyant riff on Jerry Lewis as The Nutty Professor). Along the way they meet a bunch of other unfinished drawings—a dragon (Owen Wilson) and a duck (Jessica Capshaw), along with a horse, a bee, and an astronaut—who become their allies. And you’ll be glad to know that even the supposed monsters turn out to be not so much malicious as misunderstood, and in the end all have become friends.
There’s little that’s distinctive or imaginative about “The Hero of Color City.” The story is derivative, the animation mediocre, the voice work merely adequate, and the humor puerile, mostly consisting of groan-inducing puns and a smattering of flatulence hags centering on a crayon named Refried Bean. There are also a few nondescript songs with banal lyrics and instantly forgettable tunes.
Still, the movie’s messages about overcoming your fears, learning not to judge others by appearances and working together aren’t bad ones, and the visuals are colorful enough to keep young kids content over the course of the brief running-time. The picture also ends with a PSA for a charity that collects crayons for redistribution to needy children. Better coloring books than video games, one supposes.
Among animated children’s movies “The Hero of Color City” is clearly at the low end of the spectrum. Parents who are nonetheless interested in using it as a babysitting device might consider accessing it on VOD, where it’s already available, rather than going to the theatre where they—and their older kids—will have to suffer through it along with the small fry.