“Speed Racer” stimulates and frustrates in equal measure
After watching the mostly bold, frequently and fatally boring, visually stimulating but strangely unaffecting “Speed Racer,” it’s not only difficult to know whether to recommend the film, but just as mysteriously, if so, to whom?
It’s appears the Wachowski Brothers (“The Matrix” trilogy and “V for Vendetta”) weren’t sure who would comprise the audience for this film. So, they decided to simply make a film to please themselves-die hard fans of the 60s Japanese cartoon upon which it is based. Good enough, but here’s why the film will disappoint most who go see it and will likely be a box office flop:
Its unbearable length (two hours plus), and its structure wherein the second half of the film contains nearly all the excitement, combine to bring “Speed” to a screeching halt. The first half is exposition heavy–too talky–and no film based on racing should keep its viewers waiting over an hour before displaying an actual, um, full length car race.
The PG rating, subject material, and hi-tech animated effects all imply a kid-friendly film. But most young moviegoers will be struggling to stay awake by the halfway point unless the vibrant and colorful imagery-the film’s best feature-can keep them interested. The handful of potty-mouthed exclamations also seems oddly out of place in a movie aimed at families.
The casting is first rate with Emile Hirsch (“Into the Wild”) as Speed, John Goodman and Susan Sarandon as his parents, Christina Ricci (“Penelope”) as childhood sweetheart Trixie, and especially the hilariously sprightly Paulie Lutt as little brother Spritle and his pal/pet monkey Chim Chim.
The story line involving corporate politics and corrupt sports magnates has merit, and is given gravitas by the decent performances. But I defy anyone under 16 to explain the plot and each characters’ motivation. While the characters feel one-dimensional at times there are some effective heartfelt family moments toward the end.
But the film’s seeming raison d’etre–the car races themselves–while wildy colorful and filled with high-speed action, lack true suspense. Very little feels real here-think hot wheels cars on steroids–and while the film gets extra credit for its explosion of imagery and an attention to detail non-pareil, the eye candy may not satisfy anyone other than the most dedicated of “Speed Racer” fans. This film could have used a heavy dose of Spielberg pacing and Pixar personality.
Rated PG-13 for violence and profanity.