alibi online
Free Will AstrologyAlibi's Personals
 
 V.17 No.20 | May 15 - 21, 2008 

Film Review

Speed Racer

High-speed, color-saturated action film out-cartoons the cartoon

“Whoa, dude, I should really stop taking hallucinogens before the race.”
“Whoa, dude, I should really stop taking hallucinogens before the race.”

Speed Racer

Directed by Andy & Larry Wachowski

Cast: Emile HIrsch, John Goodman, Christina Ricci

In their first writing/directing effort since the conclusion of the epic Matrix trilogy, the Wachowski brothers grab the steering wheel of Speed Racer, a live-action adaptation of the classic Japanese cartoon from the ’60s. Given the groundbreaking, if audience-splitting work the Wachowskis did on the techno-mythical Matrix films, Speed Racer seems like a somewhat junior-grade assignment. Despite the subdued expectations, this kiddie flick freak-out looks like it was shot not with a camera lens, but with a kaleidoscope. Watching it is roughly akin to taking LSD at Disneyland. (My God, the colors!) The result is a 10,000 RPM action movie that is somehow more cartoony than an actual cartoon.

Emile Hirsch (hot off Into the Wild) is our boy Speed, a futuristic race car driver who dreams of following in his long-lost brother’s lead-footed tracks. John Goodman and Susan Sarandon are along for the ride as Mom and Pops Racer, and Christina Ricci offers support as Speed’s loyal g.f. Trixie. (If ever there was an actress destined to play a saucer-eyed Japanese cartoon character, it’s Christina Ricci.) For the kids in the audience, there’s Speed’s mischievous little brother Spritle (enthusiastic butterball Paulie Litt from “Hope & Faith”) and his pet chimpanzee Chim-Chim (who, thankfully, is not computer-generated). Immediately, fans of the old cartoon will notice how faithful Speed Racer is to its source material. The detailsright down to Trixie’s pink helicopter and the buttons on the Mach 5’s steering wheelare spot-on.

The Racer family, ready to kick some ass.
The Racer family, ready to kick some ass.

The story, much like the recent Iron Man, is an anti-corporate parable in which Speed considers selling out to big-league sponsors. Turns out, of course, all the major races are fixed, and Speed’s only recourse is to enter an illegal cross-country rally--the very race that claimed his beloved brother’s life.

The major upgrade for this outing is the racing sequences. This is no Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder. The race courses here all look like they were built out of Hot Wheels tracks by Frank Gehry’s sugar-addled 8-year-old nephew. Neon-lit blacktops loop into the sky, over mountain peaks and under the water. Cars skid around the tracks less like drift racers and more like out-of-control pinballs. To top it all off, cars are equipped with an arsenal of dastardly offensive and defensive weapons that would make James Bond’s gadget man Q weep with envy. Sure, it looks like a video gamebut it looks like a video game you can't wait to play.

There’s no mistaking the fact that Speed Racer is geared toward kids. It’s juvenile, colorful and filled with slapstick, attention-addled action. Snobbish older fanboys of the original series may be put off to find the Wachowskis have taken such an adolescent approach. But, just like the 35-year-old with the “Thundercats” poster in his bedroom, these viewers have missed the point. Cartoons are for kids, and no amount of ironic, post-modern posturing is going to change that fact. You either love them for what they are or you grow the hell up. Me, I’ve chosen the former. I had an absolute ball with Speed Racer, reveling in every preposterous, gravity-defying car jump and listening gleefully to the sound of my own retinas as they sizzled under the Wachowski’s DayGlo visual onslaught. Others, admittedly, may not be as enthusiastic.

At 129 minutes, Speed Racer seems awfully long for the candy-gobblers in the audience. There’s plenty of touching, well-scripted family drama laced thoughout the film, but much of it feels out of place. Elementary schoolers want action, not father-son bonding, motherly advice and sibling rivalry. And with its “Dick Tracy-meets-Hero by way of Mario Kart” style, the film may be way (way, way) too over-the-top for many adults. Grown-ups who can get themselves in the proper “8-year-old on a Saturday morning with a stomach full of Lucky Charms” vibe, however, are apt to label this as pure, psychedelic, high-speed techno-bliss.


Speed Racer

The Wachowski brothers throw every visual trick in the book into this live-action adaptation of the classic Japanese cartoon. The result is a 10,000 RPM action movie that's somehow more cartoony than an actual cartoon. Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild) is our boy Speed, a futuristic race car driver who dreams of winning the legendary cross-country rally that claimed the life of his older brother. John Goodman and Susan Sarandon are along for the ride as Mom and Pops Racer, and Christina Ricci offers support as Speed's loyal g.f. Trixie. It's probably too over-the-top for many audiences, but--if you can get into the proper 8-year-old mindset--this is pure techno-bliss. 129 minutes PG.

 

Tomorrow's Events

Featuring independent films of all genres, including a special focus on Latino and New Mexican filmmaking and cinema shot in southern New Mexico.

Free Wednesday: Film Series at Albuquerque Museum of Art and History

Thursday

The Wind Journeys at National Hispanic Cultural Center

More Recommented Events ››
Join our mailing list for exclusive info, the week's events and free stuff!
 

  • Select sidebar boxes to add below. You can also click and drag to rearrange the boxes; close using the little X icons on each box. To re-add a box you closed, return to this menu.
  • Because you are not logged in, any changes you make to these boxes will vanish as soon as you click to another page. If you log in, the boxes will stick.
  • alibi.com
  • Latest Posts
  • Web Exclusives
  • Recent Rocksquawk Discussions
  • Recent Classifieds
  • Latest User Posts
  • Most Active Users
  • Most Active Stories
  • Calendar Comments
  • Upcoming Alibi Picks
  • Albuquerque
  • Duke City Fix
  • Albuquerque Beer Scene
  • What's Wrong With This Picture?
  • Reddit Albuquerque
  • ABQ Journal Metro
  • ABQrising
  • ABQ Journal Latest News
  • Del.icio.us Albuquerque
  • NM and the West
  • New Mexico FBIHOP
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • Only in New Mexico
  • Mario Burgos
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • High Country News
  • El Grito
  • NM Politics with Joe Monahan
  • Stephen W. Terrell's Web Log
  • The Net Is Vast and Infinite
  • Slashdot
  • Freedom to Tinker
  • Is there a feed that should be on this list? Tell us about it.
    3 BAD JACKS
    3 BAD JACKS9.4.2014