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I first heard about Fast and Furious: Spy Racers, the animated Fast and Furious spinoff, in April 2018 and then promptly forgot about it because so much time had passed. But since it was released today, I gave it a whirl. It’s fun, colorful and lighthearted.

The story follows young Tony Toretto, who is Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) cousin. He’s confident and determined to prove himself as a real racer and good driver. Together, he and his team are recruited by a government agency to infiltrate SH1FT3R (I know), which is an underground crime organization and stop it from achieving its goal of world domination.

Fast and Furious: Spy Racers is a children’s show. The jokes are clean, there’s no cursing and I’m not even sure the characters fire real bullets at each other; instead, the car-mounted guns pepper enemies with brightly colored paintballs.

The intended audience doesn’t detract from the show, however. The show leans heavily into its own silliness and that gives it a very lighthearted quality. The government handler’s name is Ms. Nowhere (“I just made it up to Nowhere, I will not get bumped back to Ms. Nothing. I was a Nothing for too long!”).

Dominic Toretto shows up and he’s actually voiced by Vin Diesel. Which is nice because it feels like a nod to the live-action franchise. The original Fast and Furious roots aren’t forgotten, either. Tony Toretto and his gang are a diverse group of kids who are into street racing in Los Angeles, much like how The Fast and the Furious began.

The show starts in sun-filled downtown Los Angeles, but it’s definitely sometime in the future. For one, the streets are clean and the skies are clear. For another, the cars in Tony’s gang are a mix of old-school muscle and high-tech electric. There’s Frostee Benson, the 13-year-old tech genius. There’s Margaret “Echo” Pearl, a no-bullshit and gutsy skater girl who designed her own electric sports car. And there’s Cisco Renaldo, the gang’s gentle giant mechanic.

It’s video games meets Death Race meets Mad Max. The cars are hyper-colorful, and the way they interact with their environment has a very Need For Speed cutscene quality.

We’re told right from the beginning to expect cars that push “competitive technology to the edge. Smoke cannons, flash grenades, grappling hooks, rocket engines—anything goes.” In races, you’ll see massive iron fists that shoot out of bumpers, cars armed with buzzsaws and cars that can shoot grappling cables, Batmobile-style.

But where there’s over-the-top “spy gear,” there’s also accuracy. The sound bytes of the cars sound are pretty on point and more than once, you’ll catch views of what things like an off-road truck’s suspension system is doing when it does a leap through the air.

The cars fly through the air, flip upside through tunnels and soar across buildings with the same sort of unbelievable acrobatics the later Fast and Furious movies introduced. And since the later movies became so cartoonish themselves, I suppose the next logical step was to make a cartoon.

But Spy Racers isn’t even half as serious. No doubt because the main characters are a bunch of smart, savvy kids—but kids all the same. Sometimes the jokes don’t always land, but the overall sense of the show feels so much lighter and less doom-and-gloom than the live-action franchise does currently. The kids aren’t dragged down by the demons of murdered partners or tormented by escaped archenemies.

They’re cheerful, playful, optimistic and silly—and that’s great. It makes you feel like you’re laughing with them rather than at them. They’re cartoon characters and they know it, too. The personalities are exaggerated to match.

Right now, there’s one season with eight episodes, each around 24 minutes long. So, not a huge time commitment. Take a look if you have some time. It’s a nice and easy watch.

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About the author

Kristen Lee

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.