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