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Tame 'Color City' stays inside the lines

Tame 'Color City' stays inside the lines
Red (Rosie Perez), White (Jeremy Guskin), Green (Jess Harnell), Yellow (Christina Ricci) and Blue (Wayne Brady) in "The Hero of Color City." (Magnolia Pictures)

Upbeat, neon-hued and innocuous, the children's computer-generated animation feature "The Hero of Color City" tries to do for Crayola crayons what "The Lego Movie" did for building sets and the "Toy Story" films did for all toys.

While a boy named Ben sleeps, his crayons return to their home in Color City to be groomed and have their brilliance restored. They're a standard assortment of types: brassy Noo-Yawkah Red (Rosie Perez), athletic Blue (Wayne Brady), Eeyore-esque Black (David Kaye) and timorous Yellow (Christina Ricci).

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Everything frightens Yellow, and her overreactions lead two unfinished drawings, King Scrawl (David Kaye, again) and his yakking sidekick Nat (Craig Ferguson), to Color City.

Angry at being left an unfinished black-and-white sketch, Scribble blocks the rainbow waterfall that provides the color for the crayon characters. As its flow diminishes, they fade. Despite her fears, Yellow becomes the de facto leader of the rescue expedition, making peace between the crayons and drawings and restoring the vital flow of color.

The story and characterizations never get much deeper than "We're all special in our own way." At times, the five writers borrow a little too heavily from other properties. Professor Heliotrope (Jeremy Guskin) seems awfully similar to Professor Frink on "The Simpsons."

Obviously working with a minuscule budget, director Frank Gladstone and his artists simplified the look of the characters and their world in ways that recall "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" (2001). But some viewers may wonder if the production's limited resources might have been better spent on animators than on 15 credited producers.

"Color City" is aimed at a 3- to 6-year-olds; older children will quickly grow restless with its very tame adventures. But parents of younger ones may welcome its quiet entertainment.

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"The Hero of Color City."

MPAA rating: G.

Running time: 77 minutes.

Playing: In limited release.

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