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Speed Racer (2008)

DVD Cover (Warner Brother)
Genres:
Adventure, Adventure Comedy, Chase Movie
Directors:
Lana Wachowski Lana Wachowski
Lilly Wachowski Lilly Wachowski
Starring:
Emile Hirsch Emile Hirsch
Nicholas Elia Nicholas Elia
Susan Sarandon Susan Sarandon
Melissa Holroyd Melissa Holroyd
Ariel Winter Ariel Winter

6.0 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Speed Racer is the tale of a young and brilliant racing driver. When corruption in the racing leagues costs his brother his life, he must team up with the police and the mysterious Racer X to bring an end to the corruption and criminal activities. --TMDb
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: May 13, 2008
Before heading to the theatre to see "Speed Racer", my friends and I were sitting around, talking about the film and the Summer movie season, in general. Whilst discussing how "Speed Racer" would fare as a tent pole Summer release I asked the question, "Why should I want to see this film?" One of my friends responded, "Because its from the Wachowski Brothers!" I nodded, at first, but then I thought about it more and that response really consumed me. What does that statement even mean? These are two guys who burst onto the scene with "Bound", a decent film but nothing close to a masterpiece. Then came "The Matrix", a great science fiction film. Then came "The Matrix" sequels, two colossal wastes of time. They have directed nothing since. Their most popular film amongst fans is probably "V for Vendetta", and they only wrote and produced it. These guys are not the kinds of directors whose names immediately evoke excellence in cinema. These are two guys who try way too hard some times, when all they need to do is be more patient and pay more attention to cohesion in story. "Speed Racer" suffers from many of the same problems that plagued the two "Matrix" sequels and "V for Vendetta". It's all shine and no substance. "Speed Racer" exists in a world between animation and live action, and it rests there under full knowledge that both worlds seem to be in a constant state of flux. "Speed Racer" relishes that. We do not.

Based on the popular Japanese anime series, "Speed Racer" attracted a cult following in the States and has enjoying popularity and syndication for years and years. Emile Hirsch stars as Speed Racer, the middle son of the Racer Family. Paps Racer (John Goodman) has been designing race cars for years and years and does everything from scratch. Mom Racer (Susan Sarandon) runs the household and does enough worrying for everyone. Younger brother Spritle (Paulie Litt) spends his days getting into trouble with their chimpanzee, Chim Chim. Sparky (Kick Gurry) helps Paps with the cars and lives with the family. Speed's older brother, Rex (Scott Porter) was a former superstar driver, who went to the dark side and was tragically killed in a derby race. The film opens with present shots of Speed competing in a race and past shots of Rex driving him around the track. Almost immediately, Speed is visited by a man named Royalton (Roger Allam), a billionaire who wants to make Speed part of his elite race team. Eventually, Speed declines, not wanting to go against everything his father has taught him. After Royalton makes life hell for the Racers, Speed joins up with Racer-X (Matthew Fox) to help bring Royalton to the authorities. Christina Ricci co-stars as Trixie, Speed's girl; and Richard Roundtree as Ben Burns, one of the great drivers. The film ends with the Grand Prix race where Speed is put to the ultimate test on the track.

Where the film sometimes excels is the visuals. The Wachowski Brothers have created one of the most unique worlds of fiction the screen has scene. The colors are so bright and vibrant and their editing style makes the film seem very much like the animated television series. We have numerous scenes of overlapping sequences and jumbled editing and racing scenes to fast that you can hardly tell what is going on some of the times. As jumbled as it is, it definitely keeps us interested. The problem, as with the latest "Star Wars" films, is that we're constantly aware that we're watching actors on a green screen. The problem with remaking an animated series and making so much of it with animation is that you need very colorful and larger-than-life actors to handle the live action roles, and as good as most of these actors are - they are not cut out to be cartoon characters. So, in that regard, the visuals proved more distracting than they should have been. But, the film also excels in the area of sound. "Speed Racer" has one of the most complex sound designs I have heard in a long time, with constant changes in music and tones and foley effects. I think this film already has the Academy Awards in the sound area sewn up, despite the films flaws. And, finally, I very much appreciated the Wachowski Brothers attempting to stay completely true to the series. Fans of the series appreciate it too, I am sure. However, it doing so, they have made a film that is pretty much inaccessible to the rest of audiences. That is the problem you always face with adaptations. Do you stay true to the core fans and alienate everyone else? Or do you please to the masses and make enemies with the core fans? "Speed Racer" made its decision. It made a bad one.

In a film like this, performances are not what you're going to the theatre to see. However, you would not think that here considering the pedigree. Emile Hirsch is fine as Speed, though he does sometimes have a monotone rhythm to his characterization that doesn't really fit the character. He's as adorable as he's ever been and he gets a couple of nice moments, but he also gets the absolute worst dialog in the entire picture. John Goodman and Susan Sarandon do the best with their roles, but are so much better than the film itself. Both get their individual scenes to shine, and it was very nice to see John Goodman looking healthier in a film again. Otherwise, the performances don't fare so well. Matthew Fox is dreadful as Racer-X, delivering his lines as wooden and as unbelievable as I've ever heard. The audience was laughing at him. Roger Allam is channeling Tim Curry through the entire film, and I would have rather them spent the extra money for Curry - at least then you could say, "Hey - there's Tim Curry!" And, Paulie Litt turns in one of the most annoying child performances in recent memory, alongside that damned chimpanzee. I understand their relevance to the film, but did they have to be so grating on the senses? I think not. Finally, Christina Ricci does a decent enough job with Trixie and she does look more like a comic book character than anyone else, but even she seems pretty weaker when matched against the special effects.

I just don't know how to adequately describe "Speed Racer" to audiences who haven't seen it yet. I can't quite recommend the film, though it did keep me watching it. I can't recommend it because the Wachowski Brothers spent all of their time worried about the effects and spent zero time with the storyline, or developing the script. The dialog is wretched. I also can't recommend it because the blend of live action and animation doesn't seem to work. It's not convincing. And, I know it is not supposed to look real, but what I didn't find convincing was the juxtaposition of the two. So, in the end, "Speed Racer" doesn't even finish the race. It's a pretty package and you won't mind staring at it for a few hours, but the contents are pretty lame. It's like getting a lump of coal for Christmas wrapped in a 14 karat gold box. It's like choosing the most delicious looking piece of chocolate from the box, only to find it has that orange flavored creme inside. "Speed Racer" might appeal to children, but I don't think it will. Adults will definitely have a difficult time making it through the picture. "Because its from the Wachowski Brothers!" So what.

4/10.
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Mr. Mistoffelees #1: Mr. Mistoffelees - added 05/13/2008, 09:43 PM
Hey, the orange creme isn't that bad. Although I will say thank you for this review, I had absolutely no intention of seeing this and I think it will garner little in the way of praise. I would like to call this year Jizzfest '08, what with certain movies (eh hem Iron Man) blowing me away, the Dark Knight coming up, and others that I am hoping will be fantastic.
grain of sand #2: grain of sand - added 05/14/2008, 03:01 AM
check it out on shrooms, wild ride. 9/10
bluemeanie #3: bluemeanie - added 05/14/2008, 10:27 AM
I hear that seeing the film under the influence makes the experience far more tolerable. Hindsight...
Crispy #4: Crispy - added 07/23/2009, 02:39 AM
I'll admit, I've never seen a single episode of the cartoon, but I can not help but feel that this movie was made with the sole intention of giving stoners some pretty colors to enjoy. I don't partake myself, but even I was able to enjoy the visuals some. What I couldn't enjoy was that god damned kid. 20 bucks and a cigarette to the man who smacks him in the head with a claw hammer. And as always, Christina Ricci is smoking hot. I think I'll echo your 4/10.
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