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SPEED RACER (PG) (2008)

Warner Brothers

Official Site

Directors: Andy and Larry Wachowski

Producer: Joel Silver

Written by: Andy and Larry Wachowski

Cast: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, Susan Sarandon, John Goodman, Paulie Litt, Roger Allam, Matthew Fox

Rating:


The same Wachowski Brothers who explored lesbian noir in Bound, reinvented action movies with The Matrix, and created a comic book adaptation for V For Vendetta take an unexpected turn into family films with their latest movie, Speed Racer. Against all expectations (including my own) the Wachowski Brothers have succeeded in creating a movie for viewers of all ages. Adding their own vision to aesthetics borrowed from video games and anime, Speed Racer is a beautiful universe, familiar and novel all at once.

The honest and hard-working Racer family is happy to compete in the racing circuit independent of any major sponsors, but Speed’s (Hirsch) talent behind the wheel attracts the attention of Mr. Royalton (Allam), who has no time for the Racer’s small town values and believes only in the unassailable might of money. Speed has only the loving support of Mom and Pop Racer (Sarandon and Goodman), candy-addicted little brother Spritle (Litt), and his helicopter pilot gal pal Trixie (Ricci) to stand against the Royalton corporation's armies of ninjas, gangsters, and yes, even lawyers. Arriving to even the odds is the mysterious Racer X (Fox), whose past and identity are shrouded in secret. Motivated to protect his family, Speed takes on the entire racing institution in a fight to the finish.

The movie takes its cue from video games (most notably F-Zero) for the look and feel of its many races. The futuristic cars zoom around obstacle-infested racetracks and deploy a variety of ingenious secret weapons against each other. The races themselves feature the usual frantic camera work, showing close-ups of emoting actors in the cockpit and zoom-out shots of entirely CGI cars and racetracks. Whenever the ADHD editing gets too confusing, the announcers cut in and explain what happened. The constant motion on the screen and the collage of images and colors works to the film's advantage, keeping all of the children in the audience entranced during its 2:25 running time.

What Speed Racer attempts is very ambitious. It's hard to make a movie that's appropriate and entertaining for all ages. It's a silly and cartoon-like movie, as befits the source material, and some may be put off by its outlandishness, annoyed by the zany antics of the comic relief characters, or simply find the race sequences indecipherable.

The terms white knuckle thrill ride or pure adrenaline rush are applied to lots of movies, but Speed Racer is the real deal. Instead of the exhaustion usually accompanying the finale of action movies, there was jubilation. An undeniable energy filled the theater and everyone in it, making the car ride home more exciting than it should have been. The story of a small-town family prevailing against mega-corporations or galactic empires is nothing new, but Speed Racer reminds us why we root for the little guy in the first place. The characters earn our sympathy instead of merely expecting it and the clichéd platitudes of movies past are given new life by their earnest delivery. So when legions of adversaries lay vanquished and a mountain of obstacles are overcome, victory is that much sweeter.

—Woodrow Bogucki

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



Pink Floyd

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