Published May 08, 2008Speed Racer is the latest flash-in-the-pan innovation by the brothers Wachowski. Utterly impressive visually and begging to be seen on the big screen, Speed Racer is the deep-fried chocolate bar of cinema, featuring some intense and gorgeously shot kaleidoscopic action and races for the audience to behold. That is, if the action can be made out and if the endless exposition doesnt act as a tranquiliser.
Clocking in at over two hours, the film tests the audiences patience, shifting in tone too frequently and wasting time on an unnecessarily complex story that preaches the evils of powerful corporations who exploit heartfelt fun for financial gain.
Haunted by the untimely passing of his racing brother Rex (Scott Porter) but driven by his passion for the sport, Speed (Emile Hirsch) finds himself gaining recognition in the driving circuit, mainly from unctuous corporate sponsor Royalton (Roger Allam). With heartfelt advice from his car designing pop (John Goodman), supportive mom (Susan Sarandon) and plucky girlfriend Trixie (Christina Ricci), Speed turns down the Faustian bargain, determined to be an independent maverick.
This is when Speed learns of the stock market-driven corruption that riddles the sport to the core and decides to pair up with the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox) to take down the evil corporations.
Staying true to the source Mahha GoGoGo anime, cars jump through mid-air, drive up cliffs, crash into each other and spin around, drive upside down and speed along with visual gusto. Its just a shame that the story is so blandly convoluted that most audience members will find themselves checking their watches while waiting for the next glossy, orgasmic race.
In addition, there are a number of pre-packaged emotional oversimplifications scattered throughout, giving flaky context to the already generic relationships that Speed has with each person in his life. Perhaps some interest or emotional connection could have been salvaged from these sequences if Emile Hirsch didnt always seem so bored, confused and disconnected. He acts as a sounding board with absolutely no depth or uniqueness of character.
Also worth mentioning is the sheer level of annoyance the character of Spirtle (Paulie Litt), Speeds porky younger brother, adds to the film. Incongruous and often anarchic sequences of him creating mischief with his monkey Chim Chim are so grating and cutesy that its tempting to throw miscellaneous items at the movie screen, be it cabbage, cell phones or a spare child.
Younger children may be amused by the Mario Kart antics flashing about on screen for the duration but their parents will likely be popping Tylenol. (Warner)