Genre: Action and Adventure Running Time: 2 hrs. 15 min.
Release Date: May 9th, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: The Wachowski Brothers Actors: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, Susan Sarandon, Ariel Winter, Scott Porter, John Goodman, Paulie Litt, Matthew Fox, Nayo Wallace, Roger Allam, Cosma Shiva Hagen, Rain
he instant the movie starts, viewers are introduced to a psychedelic world in which fast cars reign supreme and the laws of physics have long been lost. A playground where the color spectrum has evolved (but not the weaponry) plays host to hyperkinetic and dizzyingly dangerous races that prove anything is possible – especially the impossible. The only thing faster than the cars is the speed at which realism flies out the door, but the Wachowski Brothers have managed to create yet another visual universe unlike any other.
As a youth, Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) could think of nothing but the thrill of driving – and to one day become just like his famous racecar driver brother, Rex (Scott Porter). His dreams are almost shattered when tragedy befalls his sibling, but fate intervenes and Speed eventually fulfills his lifelong goal of staying behind the wheel. But his skills catch the eye of nefarious entrepreneur Royalton (Roger Allam), who propositions the young racer with a dastardly ultimatum – race for Royalton Industries or never race again. Determined to defy the scheming extortionist, Speed must face almost certain death in the most dangerous no-holds-barred race of all time – the Casa Cristo Classic 5000. But with the help of the mysterious Racer X, and the support of his family and girlfriend Trixie (Christina Ricci), the exceptional Racer might just be able to bring honor back to the sport he so loves.
“Speed Racer” takes the cake for being the most stylistic and unimaginably colorful film ever to grace the screen. Unfortunately, that’s the very reason that viewers may turn away from the famous anime-turned-movie. Utilizing more green-screen work than perhaps any other film to date, the backgrounds are almost completely computer generated, as are all of the fantastical racing sequences. New colors must have been invented for the film just to paint the psychedelically bright visuals. And by the conclusion, no law of gravity, physics, momentum, motion, or weight remains unbroken.
The racing scenes are like “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace’s” podracing, without the realism… which, of course, never possessed any realism in the first place. Cars spin, bounce, jump, flip, and dance about with no respect for preconceived notions of believable vehicular movement. During the hazardous Casa Cristo event, all of the racecars are equipped with signature James Bond gadgets and weaponry – but in “Speed Racer,” it feels like watching a round of the Crash Bandicoot racing video game instead of action-packed, high-speed theatrics. It’s understandable that the creators wanted to portray a form of breakneck racing unlike anything witnessed on the big screen before, but the drivers are not supposed to be superhuman; and yet every maneuver they incorporate into the roller coaster racetrack seems practical only for those with an acute understanding of the Force – or perhaps for invincible cartoon characters.
Essentially, “Speed Racer” is about as close to a live-action cartoon as it gets. Nothing remains within the boundaries of realism, especially as the maddeningly stylized editing specifically supports the idea that the characters are about as vulnerable to real life hazards as a cartoon. Traditional animation is mixed into early shots with Spritle (Speed’s younger brother) and his pet Chim-Chim (not unlike the opening moments of “Son of Rambow,” also out this month), scenes are overlayed onto one another with faces and characters sliding across the screen as the backgrounds remain motionless, and the familiar styles of anime fighting are realized in comically edited sequences of slow-motion, sped-up clips, and all methods of disorienting juxtaposition. In the end, though the story is acceptable, the effects are outlandish, and the characters are basically nonsensical, children should find no reason not to watch “Speed Racer.” And for teens, Trixie is about the only justified motivation to view this astronomically unreal racing adventure.
– The Massie Twins