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