Speed Racer

  • Year:2008
  • Rating:PG
  • Release Date:December 04, 2008
  • Distributor:Roadshow
  • The Film:4.0
  • The Disc:1.5

Raucously hallucinogenic, The Wachowski Brothers' adaptation of the distractingly repetitive Japanese race car cartoon is...

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Raucously hallucinogenic, The Wachowski Brothers' adaptation of the distractingly repetitive Japanese race car cartoon is amongst the most forgotten films of 2008. This is for good reason, as it's near impossible to place Speed Racer into any genre or demographic group because of the way that it melds the conventions of filmmaking for children (it's a plotless, sight-gag heavy meditation on juvenile enthusiasm) and adult (its psychotropic milieu would certainly be enjoyed on drugs) audiences. As technophiles and convention fighters, The Wachowskis (The Matrix trilogy, Bound) are likely perversely pleased by the film's diminished theatrical receipts; if this is to be a transitory project for them which rescinds their big budget license, so be it: they couldn't have picked a more interesting project.

Filmed on green screen in Berlin, the movie has virtually no storyline to speak of, a script which reads as half-finished (at best), and unfortunately wooden performances from actors who have been much better in the past, most especially romantic leads Emile Hirsch and Christina Ricci. Still, the film proves consistently capable of taking its audience by surprise over its waaayyy too long 135-minute running time, both by captivating with visual chicanery and when the insultingly bad dialogue somehow succeeds in wetting a cheek or two. For a movie to be this consistently, groan-inducingly lousy and still be a hair's breadth from greatness is remarkable, if rather unsurprising from directors who performed a very similar bit of caddish magic with The Matrix, which was also big on concept and execution, while small on dialogue and logic. While some cast members seem to revel in what Speed Racer is - or isn't - about (Susan Sarandon is spectacular as "Mom", John Goodman at least looks like he's having a good time as "Pops"), others seem flummoxed (Matthew Fox as an anti-hero, Richard Roundtree as a racing legend), which brings down the overall tone. Normal film conventions, however, are of happily little use in this film featuring curiously malleable racing cars conducting weightless kung fu ballet over bubblegum-pink racetracks. The film's poor box office results are perhaps to blame for the rather paltry DVD package, which is limited to a couple of underwhelming featurettes.

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