Its been almost a week since I saw Speed Racer and I already cant remember much about it. I vaguely recall lots of highly stylized automobiles and blindingly oversaturated colors. But such is the fleeting Speed Racer viewing experience: You give up two-plus hours of your life, only to have it gone in 60 seconds.
Written and directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski — aka Th e Wachowski Brothers who directed The Matrix Trilogy the film is meant to accomplish two things: crank up the nostalgia for those of us who, like myself, grew up with the Japanese anime series in the 60s; and delight a new set of kids, preferably boys around the age of 8, with a visual spectacle.
There is no doubting the Wachowskis prowess as visualists. But all of the zip-zoom-vavoom cannot make up for the films apparent lack of depth. Theres some impressive narrative complexity in the structuring of Speeds backstory, but its a distraction from the fact that the storyline is infantile and the dialog prenatal.
Some will defend the film, making the argument that it doesnt need a better script because its popcorn, family entertainment. Yet, I would point you to the best family films of yore, like Mary Poppins, which not only captivated the senses, but also engaged the mind with a script that didnt pander to the 4-year-olds and bore the adults. The best family films cater to everyone in the family.
Actually, Speed Racer is endemic of whats wrong with Hollywood these days. The effort being put forth is purely on the visual scale, instead of being invested into a great script.
On a positive note, the movie is perfectly cast. The actors — particularly Emile Hirsch as Speed — all eerily resemble their original cartoon counterparts.
The movie could use a lot more of Christina Riccis Trixie, and a lot less of Paulie Litt (Speeds annoying little brother, Spritle) and his chimpanzee, Chim Chim.
The best performances belong to John Goodman, who, after The Flintstones, has experience bringing a cartoon fi gure to life. His Pops Racer character is commanding and he plays it with a great spirit of fun.
The other notable is Matthew Fox as Racer x, who actually invests some drama into his performance despite the fact that hes required to wear a rubber suit with a mask covering half his face.
So sing Here he comes, here comes Speed Racer all you want. Im much happier with the refrain, There he goes and good riddance.
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