Rated PG for sequences of action, some violence and language.
Written and Directed By: Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski
Staring: Emilie Hirsch, Susan Sarandon, John Goodman, Christina Ricci, Scott Porter, Christian Oliver,Jack Herforth, Kick Gurry, Christian Oliver, Paulie Litt, Roger Allam, and Matthew Fox
Racing’s in our blood. Like for Pops, it isn’t just a sport. It’s way more important than that. It’s like a religion. And in our house, the major sponsors are kind of like the devil. I don’t mean to offend you, sir, and I do appreciate your offer, but after all we’ve been through, I don’t think this kind of deal is for me. -Speed
From scene one I can see every ones pores, especially Matthew Fox’s. Everyone has sweaty pores. Is this important and tie in with the cartoon? I don’t know, but even with the cartoon flavored back round I found myself fixated on the clear and distinct pores. As the movie continues I realize it has no relevance, but just some visual mishap that I can’t stop obsessing over. Other than the clever Chimp pajamas wearing boy faces the first forty minutes was so dull I had the time and inclination to understand why the Wachowski brothers wanted the pores to glisten. Was Speed Racer really a vampire from Twilight? I wasn’t sure, but then the story picked up and I had other things to distract myself.
The implementation of the old cartoon animation is a great homage but doesn’t really click in at first. With the characters entering the animation world instead of the animation entering the world of people the special effects become a new way to view movies, and it is truly difficult to adjust to. At first it just feels like you’ve been lost in a bag of skittles, where people happen to be living and racing funky cars. It’s very likely this appealed to original fans but it’s also easy to see how it would be too giant a leap for a general audience to take in.
It is unfortunate the first quarter of the film is completely mind numbing. I appreciate the attempt to do back story and develop each character to try and offset the insane style the film is shot in, but the film is so obviously overwhelmed by it’s bright exterior and it’s draw to the actual racing, that the characters play a distant second fiddle, especially when they are constantly delivering the most awkward lines known to man. There is surprisingly good and committed acting, but unfortunately the dialogue is so despicable it’s hard to forgive. The lazy way the flashbacks are used only furthers the disconnect from the character’s and the suspense of living in their present.
Matthew Fox makes a pretty amazing performance of keeping straight lips and never speaking. All I could think of was Billy Zane and Phantom. Fox does fine looking constantly frustrated on Lost, and if that were the goal of his character Racer X, he would have been a success, but the goofy chimp had more style and personality. Goodman does a nice job of grounding some of the scene, but his film wife, Susan Sarandon unfortunately just seems vacant, and her voice sounds funny, like all of her scenes were voice-overs. Christina Ricci was kind of thrown in as eye candy. What was really her purpose other than to walk around looking pretty going: “Yes Speed, no Speed, whatever you want Speed!” That’s a response that has a pleasant ring to it when thinking of the sexy and beautiful Ricci, but it did nothing for the story or characters.
The best part of the movie and what makes it even moderately worthwhile is the race scenes. It’s truly something we’ve never seen before, and the use of escapism entertainment here is top notch. It’s exciting, fun, humor is evoked, and there is a sense of suspense that can’t be denied. If the movie succeeded anywhere it was here. The Ninja battle was hysterical! “More like a nanja………..terrible what passes for a ninja these days.” It had me in utter hysterics.
Speed Racer has an ounce of cheese but that’s to be expected when considering it’s done in this very original style that spent most of it’s focus paying homage to it’s cartoon creators. It’s unfortunate it took so long to wake up, because the second half wasn’t too bad. It would have been awesome to see it the theatre though. It may have been as close as I’ll ever get to tasting the rainbow. This might be a great movie for someone on an acid trip, but for me it was okay at it’s ultimate best.