SPEED RACER - Mania.com

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Mania Grade: C

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  • Starring: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, Matthew Fox
  • Wrriten By: The Wachowski Brothers
  • Directed By: The Wachowski Brothers
  • Distributor: Warner Brothers


Wachowskis Hit a 'Speed' Bump

By Scott Mantz     May 09, 2008

Emile Hirsch as Speed Racer in SPEED RACER (2008).
© Warner Bros. Pictures
“Here he comes, here comes Speed Racer! He's a demon on wheels!”
If you can sing the rest of that song—or at least, the very next verse (“he's a demon, and he's gonna be chasing after someone!”)—then the odds are that you'll be disappointed by the big screen version of Speed Racer. And if you aren't disappointed, then you'll at least walk away with a very big headache.
That's because “Speed Racer” is an overstuffed, over-long, over-plotted mess. And that's a crushing blow for anyone who raced home after school in the early 70s to see Speed rev up the powerful Mach 5 in the classic cartoon. It's also a major letdown for fans of Larry and Andy Wachowski, the writing-directing brothers behind the groundbreaking Matrix trilogy.
But kids who have no recollection of the original TV show probably won't care, since they'll be totally consumed by the eye-popping special effects, the colorful production values and the hyper-kinetic racing sequences. At least that will keep them distracted from trying to figure out the convoluted, ho-hum story, which has more twists and turns than the Indy 500.
Where grown-ups are concerned, it's too bad that the Wachowskis didn't give the characters some room to breathe (though they had plenty of time to do so, since the film clocks in at 2 hours and 15 minutes). As it is, Speed ends up feeling like a guest star in his own movie, and the supporting players have so little to do that their cartoon counterparts seem to have more depth by comparison.
The basic premise is the same as the Japanese anime version, which was created in 1967 and later dubbed into English. Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is an idealistic dreamer who grew up in a racing family. He regularly competes in the hi-tech Mach 5, built by his father, Pops Racer (John Goodman), and he is haunted by the mysterious death of his legendary brother, Rex Racer.
But when Speed turns down a lucrative offer to drive for a ruthless business tycoon, he discovers that races are being fixed by top sponsors in an effort to boost their profits. So with the help of his family, his loyal girlfriend (Christina Ricci) and his one-time rival—the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox)—Speed competes in a deadly race to preserve the sanctity of the sport.
After revolutionizing the industry with the “Matrix” films—which themselves were inspired by anime—the Wachowskis seemed like the perfect team to get behind the wheel of a turbo-charged (and family-friendly) spectacle like Speed Racer. And on a visual scale, they were, since they spared no expense of the film's $150 million budget to make the surrealistic landscape burst with color in a way that recalls 1990’s Dick Tracy.
But when it comes to overloading the movie with special effects (as they did with the two “Matrix” sequels), the Wachowskis just couldn't help themselves. This is especially true during the zippy racing sequences, which are cut so fast that it's hard to get a bearing on which direction the Mach 5 is actually going. The effect is more overwhelming than exciting, and that prevents the film from succeeding where it should have succeeded the most.
It also prevents the 2-dimensional characters from getting the 3-dimensional makeovers they deserved. The actors certainly look their parts, but their roles are so underdeveloped that the performances end up stiff. What a shame, since the talented cast includes Emile Hirsch (“Into the Wild”), Christina Ricci as Speed's girlfriend Trixie, John Goodman and Susan Sarandon as his parents, and Matthew Fox, who may (or may not) be his long lost brother Rex.
So leave it up to Speed's trouble-making younger brother Spritle and his trusty sidekick Chim-Chim to steal the movie—and that's not a good thing. Warner Bros. and producer Joel Silver may have been revving up for a fast-paced new film franchise, but as written and directed by the Wachowski brothers, it's too fast in all the wrong places. So here comes Speed Racer—and there he goes. Sorry, Speed, we hardly knew you.


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laforcer69@yahoo.com_home 5/9/2008 12:08:03 AM
I can't trust any review or grade this site tends to give, so I will go out and see it and judge it for myself...I have heard more positive feed back from those that have gone and seen it than I have from critics, so I don't know what to believe, although I tend to go with movie goers before I do critics...I'll see what the deal is this weekend...
mckracken 5/9/2008 12:33:48 AM
just some facts, scott, the Indy 500 is really a poor example of a race track with "twists and turns" LOL. ...and just for the record, I **HATED** the cartoon when I was a kid, chim-chim and the little boy were annoying and the animation was horrible and the characters were stiff and one dementional. If they gave it any kick, it would be in the FX, since they really had nothing to go on with the characters. John Goodman... oh yeah... uh, Fred Flintstone... riiiiight. I was asking myself "why Speed Racer?" 9 months ago, "why not Robotech, Macross or Star Blazers?
metalwater 5/9/2008 12:49:15 AM
One more nail in this movie's coffin!!!
Jaysaw 5/9/2008 1:18:39 AM
Im with you, mckracken. That cartoon was never interesting. There are so many projects that are just as "pre-sold" as Speed Racer but offering far more potential. I dont understand why they even bothered. I guess they figured the racing community would get behind it. They should have spoken to Sly Stallone about his experience with Driven.
AzuLTaLoN 5/9/2008 1:47:42 AM
i never cared for the cartoon, but this movie makes me wanna trip balls and freak out in a very great and awesome way!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! if anyone has got a problem with that fuck off, you no fun loving bitch ass muddafuckka!!!!
exfan 5/9/2008 2:04:40 AM
ok guys, i am just came out of the theater !!! Grade C no doubt ! It s been a while before i was watching my watch every five minute. If this is the futur of animation and special effect movie, so i am a old school style. It was hard for me to keep seat until the end. the cast is great, special mention to goodman, especially when he kick the ninja, the rest of the crew is well done. We can sometimes feel the style of V for vendetta, the hiden face hero, the bad guys, but the rest, i mean the main body of the movie, the car, doesn t work. and the worst part is the little brother with his monkey friend ! come on, that s little bastard screw the movie from the begining to the end. Peoples who want kill Ja jar in star wars will feel the same for that s little asshole ! unwatchable, not funny once, and keep coming and coming each time more stupid, guys one advice, save your money and return to watch tony stark once again !
ponyboy76 5/9/2008 2:13:25 AM
Well, like Mlaforcer, I really don`t trust the reviews on this site or any other for that matter. I mean come on, you guys gave Iron Man a "B " I do take heed when I read the comments from the fellas on here but I still rather go and judge for myself. I also never was really into the cartoon. It was really corny and I was more into Robotech and GIJOE. If nothing else, I want to go see the movie for the visuals. Besides, I`m going to see Iron Man again right after on Sunday.
exfan 5/9/2008 2:18:50 AM
ponyboy when you will watch that s movie you will regret i look forward to watch your comments. Just tell me if the black guys in the end his Shaft himself !
hanso 5/9/2008 4:17:28 AM
I'm not a Speed Racer fan, never cared for the cartoon but I was looking foward to seeing the film. Some friends of mine got a chance to see it and said it wasn't any good. So that plus the so-so reviews and the comments I've seen posted will probably make me skip this film and catch it on blu ray when it's out. I'll probably end up saving my $$ for Prince Caspian. That way I can use this weekend to keep playing GTA4 non stop. Damn, that game is awesome. Yo if any of you peeps got it for PS3 and want kill some mofos Team Deathmatch style, holla at yo boy!
vaporman 5/9/2008 6:14:28 AM
I have to agree, to a certain extent, with others that have posted comments here regarding the movie reviews on this and other genre movie sites. That being said, I have been disappointed by the Wachowskis twice before with the horrendous Matrix sequels. So I suppose like many others I'll be reserving judgement for when I have actually seen the film. I was not a Speed Racer fan to begin with, but this film appeared to have potential. Still, like others before me have stated, why not choose a deeper property than this to spend the cash on? Some of us have been waiting for years for a "real" attempt at making a Masters Of The Universe film. Much deeper mythology and characters there. Hello???
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