Speed Racer

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Go (See) Speed Racer Go (Now)!!!

May 9, 2008 (Updated Apr 29, 2009)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Visual, entertaining, fun for the entire family

Cons:Predictable, weak characters

The Bottom Line: All this movie wants to do is entertain you. It doesn't have a lesson to preach. So just go to be entertained.


Frankly, I'm not quite sure what got me into the theater to see Speed Racer opening weekend. I've never seen the original cartoon series the movie was based on. I'm not a big racing fan in particular or a sports fan in general. Yet I'd heard from someone who saw an advanced preview that it was a fun flick. And they were 100% correct.

Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is obsessed with racing. Even as a boy (Nicholas Elia in these flashbacks), he couldn't concentrate on school but spent the day dreaming about cars. Of course, he comes by it naturally. Pops (John Goodman) designs race cars and older brother Rex (Scott Porter) is an up and coming champion. Things hit a bump when Rex and Pops fight and Rex leaves home only to die amidst allegations of wrong doing.

But racing is in the Racer family blood (no surprise with that name), and Speed seemed destined to take the crown. After making a splash at a local race, he catches the eye of Royalton (Roger Allam) who is a big sponsor of other racers. He promises Speed the moon, but when Speed turns him down, he turns nasty, threatening Speed and his family. Now he'll have to team up with the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox). But can they work together well enough to bring the truth to light?

This movie is an absolute feast for the eyes. Most of the racing involves cars decked out in bright lights zooming by as fast as possible. No, that doesn't always make it easy to follow every detail, and at times it can get downright psychedelic. But it looks amazing. The visuals are just as stunning when off the track. Every scene is filled to the max with bright colors. Even the outside stuff is vibrant. I'm going to predict now this will be a huge seller on Blu-Ray come fall. And it will be worth getting in that format.

Now most of the time when people start talking about how great a movie looks, I worry about the actual content. But you know what? I loved that too. I got hooked on the movie surprisingly quickly. I was drawn into the story and didn't want it to end.

If I'm honest, I have to admit to the problems in the film. First, the story is predictable. I had most of the plot points nailed in the first 20 minutes. And most of the first half hour or so was rather slow. But once the story picked up, I really didn't care about that.

The characters are weak as well. They are fairly one dimensional most of the time. Speed struggles at times with what to do, but you know he will go back to racing. And Royalton is a one note villain. In fact, I felt like booing him a la the villain in a vaudeville play. But when you are dealing with a movie that is half set in race cars, what did you expect?

The acting is mostly decent. True, a couple scenes have some cheese to them. But part of that is the writing. And honestly, those scenes don't detract too much. These actors carry the show well and hold up to the onslaught of the special effects. That's not a surprise with the likes of Susan Sarandon and Christina Ricci rounding out the cast.

I think the problem most people are going to have with this film is that it was written and directed by the Wachowski Brothers, best known for the Matrix trilogy (only the first one was any good anyway) and V for Vendetta (never saw it). But what people need to look at is the rating. This is a PG film. It's not an epic with lots to chew on like their other films have been. This is a family film. The expectations are different. There are not long sermons about the meaning of life. Any of those scenes are brief to get back to the gags and story.

Which brings up something I loved. Speed has a younger brother (played by Paulie Litt) and who has a pet chimp. Those two steal every scene they are in. And the kids in the audience I saw it in loved them.

If you go into Speed Racer expecting an important film for adults, you will be highly disappointed. The only ambition this film has is to entertain. And if you just sit back and give it a chance, it will entertain and leaving you cheering. Bring on the sequel!


Recommend this product? Yes

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