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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Speed Racer

MOVIE REVIEWS

SPEED RACER (2008)

Starring Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Fox, Roger Allam, Paulie Litt, Benno Fürmann, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rain, Scott Porter, Richard Roundtree and Kick Gurry.

Screenplay by The Wachowski Brothers.

Directed by The Wachowski Brothers.

Distributed by Warner Bros.  135 minutes.  Rated PG.

125X125

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

Speed Racer

Speed Racer is a triumph of style over substance.

Well, triumph may be overstating it a bit.  However, the movie is stuffed so full of bright colors, wild sets, zooming cars and fiery crashes that you don't really obsess on the fact that there isn't much "there" there.

It's junk food of a movie, lots of empty calories and almost no nutritional value, but it tastes pretty good going down.

Then again, the same could be said about the 60s animated TV series - one of the precursors of anime - which inspired it.  Many people - myself included - grew up watching Speed Racer every Saturday morning while binging on Super Sugar Crisp or Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries. 

Therefore there is a built-in audience with a nostalgic love for the characters.  I recently watched some episodes as an adult and realize that it wasn't a very good show, but I still harbor deep affection for it.  There was no way that I could imagine missing this movie. 

Besides, all these years later, the Mach Five is still the coolest car ever.

It is the story of Speed (Emile Hirsch) a handsome young driving-savant who is already making a name as the best thing to come along in years in the world of auto racing.  Plus, he looks striking in an ascot.

His gruff father Pops Racer (John Goodman) is a brilliant engineer and mechanic who builds all the cars his young son drives.  He started his own motor company after leaving a huge, soulless conglomerate.  The only thing that Pops loves even more than racing is his family.

Speed has got a girlfriend named Trixie (Christina Ricci) who can drive better than most men, flies helicopters in a mini skirt and likes the idea of kissing on camera.

Moms Racer (Susan Sarandon) is really only there to wear Donna Reed fashions, make pancakes and PB & J sandwiches and give Speed periodic pep talks about his purpose in life.  There's also Spritle and Chim Chim, Speed's candy-obsessed little brother and his cutesy pet chimp who have a tendency to stow away in the trunk of the Mach Five.

Speed's older brother Rex was killed years before in a fiery crash (or was he?) and the Racer family has never recovered from the loss.  Speed suspects that the mysterious masked Racer X (Matthew Fox) might actually be Rex.

There is a bunch of clap-trap about a big corporation trying to take over Racer Motors, as well as evil gangsters, rogue drivers and rather ineffectual ninjas all gunning to take Speed out.

This is all background noise, though.  Speed Racer really revs only during the absurdly crash-happy heavily stylized, unrealistic but undeniably visually stunning road rallies. 

In fact, the look of Speed Racer, saturated in bright colors and a fascinating mix of Blade Runner futurism and 60s kitsch, is the most unique-looking movie world in quite some time.

It is hard to fault a movie for being way too cartoonish when all they are attempting is to be a slam-bang live-action cartoon.  The story is slight but the visuals are stunning.  That is really all that writers/directors the Wachowski Brothers (The Matrix Trilogy) were trying to do.  What can I say?  Mission accomplished there.

I could never go so far as to say that Speed Racer is a good movie, but it is certainly a stimulating one.

Ken Sharp

Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: May 10, 2008.

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Copyright ©2008   PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: May 10, 2008.