reviewed by Tom-Tom
So, I don’t know how to write a review for the film version of “Speed Racer.” The DVD was a present from my Uncle and having watched the first 8 minutes, I immediately turned it off and let it sit for 6 years. I picked it up again on Monday, determined to see what a “bad Wachowskis movie” looked like. (Insert your own suggestion here). First let it be known that it is supposed to be a family movie read in this situation as for kids, I would imagine.
Speed Racer is the actual name of the main character who from childhood’s hour is obsessed with racing due to his indulgent older brother Rex. Yes, Rex Racer. Trixie, a fawning young beauty who forgives Speed his differences and grows up to the be the always attractive and personable Christina Ricci while Speed grows up to be Emile Hirsch who is unsure of himself in a hand wringing way. There are other two characters, one a chimpanzee and one, the most unpardonable urchin allowed outside the lesser Robert Rodriguez flicks.
Every scene these two characters are in is a travesty to film, to comedy, and even, apparently to the American Humane Society.
Take away these Jar Jar Binks, these one-eyed lady from “Paul,” these contrived love story tacked on to Coppola’s” Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, and the film actually is an exciting sports movie that is very serious about racing and the politics of big business vs the little guy. A movie is not only made by its heroes but by its villains and this one has a bad guy with teeth on par with The Architect. He gives a juicy and moustache twirling speech trying to burst Speed’s fantasies of pure racing and meritocracy with a capitalist speech about the power of the Almighty Dollar which nearly crushes the poor youth. The guy just wants to race and to set his skill against others but it seems, in this futuristic world, nothing so simple exists anymore. There’s a moment, later, where the titular character’s mother, played by Susan Sarandon, compares his racing to a great artist’s painting or a musician’s best composition and I just found myself so very moved. As the title suggests, it is a racing movie and the CGI and sets in general are all super colorful concentrating on primary colors which, when buying gifts for my baby niece, I was told toddlers like. It looks like something from that awkward stage when every Saturday morning cartoon from Transformers to Winnie the Pooh thought it could refresh the series with subpar CGI. After the generally nice CGI of the Matrix Trilogy, these felt like a bit of a let down.
On the plus side, I rather liked the storyboard like scene cutting/changing/juxtaposition used. It is highly original and better than similar methods tried in TV’s “24” and the 2003 “Hulk” film.
The three racing set pieces, all splendidly directed and edited to keep the race flowing at a frenetic but understandable pace add flashbacks to yet different races or events all the while adding more suspense, risk, and meaning to the current race. I have seen this delicate juggling act done well in The Red Violin and the last 30 minutes of Inception. The last moments of the last race are all very exciting and moving. Never did I find myself thinking, “oh, not another race.”
However, the ninja fights, (despite one coolly making references to an assassination method used in 007’s You Only Live Twice), Spritle, the Chimpanzee and a few other missteps keep this film from getting more than a 2.5 star recommendation from me. Shake off the excess “Hollywood’s idea of pandering to children” and it could have been a good film. No Chim Chim cookies for me, thanks.