Red’s Water Rescue is one of the “small” sets from the Car’s line, this one featuring a minor character from Cars and Cars 2 (Red), and a character so minor in Cars 2 that even LEGO barely mentioned him in the blurb for the set. Okay, it could be that I just sort of blocked almost everything about that movie out of my mind. It was a curious thing… if it had any name other than Pixar attached to it, the thing would have just been a mindless summer movie for kids.

But Pixar puts a certain expectation in your mind that it’s going to be awesome. Toy Story managed to be awesome three different times. Up and Wall-E can be counted among the best films ever; not just one of the best animated films…  but films in general. And while Cars can be considered one of the weaker films in the lineup, it was still genuinely good, even if formulaic. Cars 2, not so much. And that leaves us with a quandry in this little $20 set? Is it more like Cars, where we first saw Red, or like Cars 2, where we were given Acer and two hours of Mater?

I’ll just warn you now, it’s more like Cars 2, and this review is going to be on the rant-y side of things. There have been plenty of disappointing sets and lines over the years, certainly, but Cars is in a class all by itself.  I’m not sure there’s another series ever done in LEGO that had so much promise left untouched as the Disney’s Cars line… and this I’m the guy that absolutely tore apart almost all of the Pirates of the Caribbean sets.

There were some gems in the line, like Flo’s V8 cafe (even if it was missing some great regulars), and some absolute stinkers, like the Jet Escape set. The entire line should have been a gimmie for LEGO, it mixed two things they knew well: Cars and capturing licensed themes in the LEGO style.

But it didn’t work. I’m willing to call it now after looking over this set… I just don’t get it. For those who didn’t know, Cars 2 basically existed because Cars was an absolute merchandising monster, far more than any other Pixar film has been. While most toys based on their stuff has a shelf life of 6-12 months, Cars has been going strong for years. So it was natural for LEGO to tap into that and try to work some of their Star Wars magic on the line.

Like I said earlier, we get two vehicles/characters in the set, Red, the quiet and shy fire-truck that was watering plants around Radiator Springs (and washing tar off of Lightning), and Acer, some green car that has a torch. I mean it, I’m not going to go watch it and see what he did.

At first blush, you get the feeling that they did a decent job on him. It captures the face and smile, it gets the general look, and it certainly looks like a fire-truck. After all, here’s what he looked like in the movies:

Okay, not bad, though the front just looks a bit blocky with them next to each other. Sure, part of that is just the reality of dealing with LEGO, but it’s also a consequence of Red being, well, red. More than a lot of other colors (say white, black, grey, brown, or even blue), you can just see all the lines stick out. I think the biggest problem may actually be the eyes though… in the LEGO version, they’re directly above the front, making the “nose” stick out much more. It’s obviously back on the real character.

It also doesn’t help that the roof, which on the normal character, is just slightly over his eyes (and still back from the rest of the front), but on the LEGO, seems to stick out at least half a mile. Okay, it’s like a stud, but still, it doesn’t look right. After that, the other details just seem to stick out even more. There’s one headlight, but the two siren speakers are both missing. And worse of all, the hose spigot on top is just turned into a flick-fire with a blue bulb on the end of it for some reason. Because fire trucks are at their most effective when throwing a small ball of water.

I’m not saying that I was expecting it to shoot water, but take off that blue bulb and it looks closer (but no amount of closeness can get you over the fact that it’s just a flickfire in a technic part). At least the stuff is printed though, and the printing has improved a little over Lightning McQueen, though still not perfect. Red has a bit of pink peeking through, but it’s not McQueen’s full-on stoner look.

Except the printing thing kind of dies when you look at the side.

It was originally hard to pin down what I didn’t like about this set, other than it just feeling off. Then one of the other mods and chat trolls, buriedbybricks, pointed out what is so wrong. It’s not the stickers, I’ll get to that, even if they’re bad. Look at the fenders. See it?

Yep, those are gaps. I know, it’s just a minor little thing, but it’s just so jarring when you see them. You can’t unsee them, no matter how much your brain wants you to. It’s like the little gaps around windscreens on starfighters, made so your minifigures can easily reach out and give other ships the bird without having to actually open anything. Or lazy building. They’re so small, you’d think there was a better solution for building up the wheels. Or even just brick-building the fenders and skipping these tired bricks.

Then you see that it’s all stickers on the side and it’s like getting poked in the eyes. Yes, I know, other Car’s sets have featured stickers, but usually not at this size. I always understand certain stickers, even stuff above like the “Fire Department” (though you’d think LEGO would have that around somewhere). But something about those gauges just bug me. Ignore for a second that they printed the pattern wrong, but why not use this?

Yes, I know, it’s dark grey, and it doesn’t match either, but still, it’s closer and would look better. They’re not going to do chrome ever again, but if you’re not going to give us the new silver, at least throw in a tile. There are probably millions of these things sitting on Pick-a-Brick walls right now, unused and unwanted. But instead, we get a sticker. It’s like the small Tokyo set that gives us the best Cars character (Guido… if you disagree, you’re just wrong) and for some reason stickered checkered flags, when you can’t go into a LEGO store without tripping over a half-dozen cases of the printed flags.

The rest of Red doesn’t really improve the situation. Again, it’s a lot of little details that unravel it. Not enough hoses on the side, no switches on the ladder (and that would have been easy to do with a couple of red cones and the small claws. I’ll link the thumbnais for you, feel free to wander over and look. Yes, you get another flick-fire in the back, even though that means the ladder kind of stinks and the back slopes look entirely wrong.

Which does sort of beg the question, what are a bunch of intelligent cars going to do with a ladder?


The other half (or to be fair, quarter) of the set is Acer, one of the henchmen to the badgu… car, in Cars 2. No, I didn’t go watch it, I just looked at the LEGO description. Guess he’s one of the Lemons, which sort of fits, since he is an AMC Pacer named after a computer company that makes some of the cheapest (and junkiest) PCs on earth. Trust me on that… I used to work for them.

Okay, so we get some lime green, and he’s wearing a little welding mask and features a torch, which I guess in a world full of Cars, is kind of like the whole chainsaw scene out of Scarface. Kind of dark when you think about it. Also, a welding mask without glass to protect your eyes is just kind of like inviting blindness and pain to come over and stay for awhile. And if we compare him to an image from the movie?

You know, I used up all my anger at inaccuracies on Red above. LEGO phoned this one in, simple as that. It actual underlies why the Cars line was so disappointing to adult fans, and based on the number of sets I can find on shelves, kids, I guess. They just don’t look like the toys you often find right across the aisle from them. Worse than that, because of the number of specialized parts, like the eyes and printed bumpers, you can’t really split them up and build something else. At least, I can’t come up with it.

So where does this leave us? The best thing that you can say about this set is that it’s only $20. Red, while an interesting little diversion, wasn’t exactly the hottest thing coming out of Cars. He struck me like a Lennie Small sort of character, someone shy and simple, and he only appeared for seconds a couple of times. Acer was a forgettable villain in a forgettable movie. Together, nothing about this set makes it memorable.

The only real positive I can come up with is that a lot about Red seems fixable. I think he’s a real challenge to a MOC’er that wants to improve on LEGO’s design. Maybe I’m being especially negative, given how disappointing this entire license turned out to be, but somehow, this set seems to remind me of it everywhere.

What I liked:

  • They’ve gotten a little better at printing white on red. Once a Flash minifig get’s made, he might not be completely awful (outside of being the Flash)
  • Red is probably fixable with a few extra parts and some effort
  • Only $20, so I don’t feel quite as ripped off as I did with the Spy Jet Escape

What I didn’t like:

  • So many different small things on Red: stickers that don’t make sense, gaps, the front, the roof (or is that his scalp?), wrong number of hoses… this list could be as long as the article
  • Flick fires and that bulb just look so wrong
  • Nothing but the color on Acer looks right
  • Doesn’t seem worth $20

Verdict: Skip it unless you want to complete characters, or find it on a really good sale.

You can get Red’s Water Rescue on Amazon.com: