Speed Racer
Go! Speed Racer! Go!
A dazzling demon on wheels...

In a breathtaking whirlwind of light and sound the 60s Japanese anime, Speed Racer, blasts onto the big screen with a distinctive flourish of energy only the Wachowski brothers can deliver.

Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild) plays Speed, a kid with big, bright eyes focused solely on the checkered flag. Racing is in his blood, and before the little tyke could even talk he was making engine sounds with his mouth.

Speed's passion for the racetrack is fueled further by his idolization of older brother Rex (Scott Porter), who dies in a mysterious accident, leaving the Racer family in a tragic, broken state. Following in his brother's footsteps, Speed becomes the driver for his Mom (Susan Sarandon) and Pops' (John Goodman) independent, family-owned racing company.

After making an exhilarating debut in the World Racing League, Speed Racer catches the attention of a ruthless industrialist named Royalton (the wonderfully venomous Roger Allam), who approaches Speed with a lucrative offer to buyout the family business. It is here that the true core of the film is presented. Speed must decide what matters more: the resources and financial backing of a big corporation, or the love and understanding only a family-owned business can provide.

As is the distinctive filmmaking style of the Wachowskis, Speed Racer uses weighty, exaggerated dialogue to elevate the stakes and push the story beyond its limits. It's in this way that Speed Racer actually defies the conventional summer blockbuster. While the film is a pure adrenaline rush, packed with dazzling special effects, there is also a great amount of depth and heart to it.

Amid the hyper-stylized kitschy 60s atmosphere, the characters are warm and loveable. Speed's girlfriend, Trixie (Christina Ricci), is perhaps one of the best translations from anime to live-action thanks in part to her big, beautiful eyes. Then there's Speed's little brother, Spritle (Paulie Litt), and his monkey Chim-Chim. They provide the comic relief in the film, which is sure to make children laugh to no end, but may turn off some older moviegoers. Then there are the villains, who are so over-the-top in their nastiness that you can't help but cheer when they get what's coming to them.

At its core, Speed Racer is a movie about fathers and sons. The film pushes a message of the ongoing struggle between the corporate world and family life. While children will get caught up in the frenetic race sequences and action pieces, older viewers will have an emotional anchor to latch on to, and some thought-provoking material to elevate the eye-popping goodness on screen.

With the help of director of photography David Tattersall (Star Wars Episodes I, II, III), the Wachowskis realize a completely absurd, sugarcoated universe that is somehow tangible and believable.

Tattersall takes the knowledge and experience of working on George Lucas's predominantly computer-generated prequels and totally blows open the green screen subgenre, making films like Sin City and 300 look tame by comparison.

I can't speak enough about the film's visual vocabulary, which is so incredibly mind numbing, that it defies possibility. Speed Racer is full of escapist, rubber-burning astonishment, but there are a few things that hold it back.

The stigma of "good family fun" will no doubt make teen and young adult viewers hesitant, and the comic relief within will appeal mainly to children. The running time is a bit long, clocking in at 135 minutes. The Wachowskis could've no doubt created the same masterful adaptation with less weighty dialogue, but then it wouldn't be a Wachowski brothers' film, would it?

"Speed Racer" is an exhaustive onslaught on the senses. I left the theater with a huge grin on my face, like an awe-struck eight-year-old, dreaming of racing at breakneck speeds through loops and over jumps. The Wachowskis have captured the animated cells of the 60s cartoon world and transformed it into a living, breathing live-action experience.
Reviewed by: adam
13 Comment(s)
Andy said...
From what I can tell it looks (visually) amazing. I will check it out. Although, only 4 stars from Adam.... hmmm that worries me.
I agree completely, Adam. This was the most fun I've had at a movie in a very long time. I also gave it an equivalent of 4 stars.

Though... I thought the movie was hilarious, even Spritle and Chim Chim... and I'm 22 :P .
Adam said...
I found it highly enjoyable and hilarious as well Nick. Loved the bits with Spritle and Chim-Chim - just crazy fun.

I LOVE the end of the Grand Prix race - simply amazing.

To be honest, this film hits a crazy surreal level in a way that reminds me of "2001: A Space Odyssey." It's like Willy Wonka + Tron + Mario Kart on Acid, haha.
Adam: I agree with the grand prix, too. I mention it in my own review, but the climax of that race is like... simultaneously the most over-dramatic/over-the-top yet most awesome climax ever. With the sudden explosions and then the warp speed colors and heightening music... it was insane. When it was happening, me and the girl I was with were like "This is insane!" like it was some roller coaster.
martha said...
i was back and forth with this one... but now i'm sold. i'll definitely have to check this out. i need a little fun at the theater :)
Shea said...
uh... 2001 Space Odyssey? Ok... ok then.
* (asterisk) (http://suchastheyare.blogspot.com) said...
By and large I avoid "family films". Just not enough grit for my liking. And the Wachowskis are dead, man.
Paul said...
This is one of the few movies that at this stage of my life, I would want to own on DVD. For the life of me I cannot understand why this movie has received so many bad reviews. I can understand if it's not the style for some people, but in no was is it BAD.

This movie is PURE entertainment, in the form of a fast-paced LSD-inspired throwback trip. Even the story itself was told quite fast, even difficult to catch at times, but I didn't care because it was part of the ride!

Excellent, excellent style and cgi all around. Excellent performances, many small details added to recreate the cartoon style, and a great job of pulling off the rare feat of making me care about ALL of the characters (see Sparky, Spritle).

I would disagree with Adam on one thing, I think John Goodman was the best adaptation and performance here.

Highly recommend this to anyone who can appreciate a movie purely for its entertainment. (see Pirates of the Caribbean, Poo Hero)
Shea said...
Just saw it....

I liked it... i really did.

I loved Ricci and Fox.

I got tired of the swooping head transitions.

I loved the piranhas.

I loved Fox in his hotel room fighting the Ninja.

I loved the ending of the Prix.

It was good... great in moments good in most.
Nick said...
I agree... Fox was the coolest.
Josh said...
Eh...this one just couldn't make up its mind as to what it wanted to be. Every time I would start getting dragged into the story it would jump to some stupid hyper-realized kids movie again. As far as I'm concerned Chim-Chim is the only reason to watch it. That monkey ruled!
Finally got around to renting this one. I liked it WAY more than I thought I would, and my wife was dreading watching it, and even SHE enjoyed it.

This movie made me feel 10 yrs old agian...

So many 2001: Space Odessey moments. AWESOME

chim-chim and spritle were surprisingly not annoying and one of the funnier parts of the film

Fox and Ricci were favorites

Grand Prix ending provoked multiple audible "OOOHHH", "YEEESSS", and "THIS IS CRAZY!" moments from my couch.

Definately will be a blu-ray purchase for me...

Did anybody mention the melting dripping rubber off the tires when Speed skids across the finish line... haha... that was AWESOME!
Adam said...
Indeed Flanigan - I love this movie. I like the weight the movie has - it's all kiddy lights and sounds but the final race seems to be heavy with feeling, like there's a lot on the line.