Favorite

Acid on the Eyes 

Though it features a talented cast, 'Speed Racer' is a horrendous failure

It's a sad state of affairs when the best thing about a film is outtake footage of a chimp playing during the closing credits.

Speed Racer is a mess, a movie about car-racing that's more than two hours long, and features not one auto race that can be followed, understood or enjoyed. The Wachowski brothers, the brilliant team behind the first Matrix and also, unfortunately, the complete nuts behind its two sequels, tried to create something new and special with this one. What they wound up with is an expensive, catastrophic experiment.

The oddest thing about this film is that its best parts involve people just sitting around chatting. That's probably because 1) the Wachowskis managed to assemble a fine cast, including Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci and John Goodman, and 2) the quiet moments give your eyes a rest from the CGI clusterfuck the directors try to pass as action.

The Wachowskis and their technical team employ a visual style that doesn't look like anything we've seen before, and that's probably a good thing, because it's acid on the eyes. It's a strange hybrid of Tron, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and whiz-bang video games. The combination might sound good, but it's not. It's a waste of time.

Everything is bright and bubbly, with much of the film shot in front of green screens with backgrounds added later via computer wizardry. As films like Sky Captain have proven, when live actors are poorly integrated into a digital world, you get a movie with no soul. Speed Racer has no soul. Heck, even diehard racing fans won't get it, because the film spends a relatively small amount of time on cars and the art of racing.

The plot involves some sort of nonsense involving Speed Racer's (Hirsch) family trying to avoid evil corporate sponsorship and remain a family racing organization. That's right: It's a family film about the evils of corporate sponsorship. You know these kids today; they're all about video games, skateboarding and watching films about evil corporations trying to corrupt sweet family businesses!

As Speed Racer, Hirsch is his usual fine self, lending a certain high quality to the proceedings, even if those proceedings aren't giving him anything back. Ricci has the look for Trixie, but she isn't given much to do. Goodman does well enough as Speed's protective dad, and Susan Sarandon is sweet as his mom. Matthew Fox is OK as Racer X, a mask-wearing mystery man who isn't all that mysterious.

The film contains many races, some of them on a racetrack, and some of them cross-country. None of them contain anything resembling tension, because the Wachowskis stage things in a way that makes the racers indistinguishable. It's just a bunch of pixels smashing you in the face, with occasional shots of actors inside car interiors looking determined.

The best thing I can say about the movie is that kids may love it. During the screening I attended, I heard a lot of youngsters squealing with delight, especially at the antics of Speed's younger brother, Spritle (played by the interesting Paulie Litt), and Chim Chim the Chimp. Litt has a cool wise-guy delivery with his lines, like he came straight out of a Dead End Kids movie from the '30s. His performance is easily the most amusing thing in the movie, besides the chimp.

The film is too long, and I thought it was going to end on at least three occasions. This is one of those films where, if you are sitting toward the rear of the theater, you'll see everybody's cellular-phone screens blinking on and off as they check the time. The cell-phone light show is more interesting than the damn movie.

Speed Racer
Rated NR

More by Bob Grimm

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Pop Hit

    The Lonely Island crew delivers a music mocumentary that belongs at the top of the charts
    • Jun 9, 2016
  • Sterling as Serling

    Midnight Special captures the spirit of the best of the Twilight Zone
    • Apr 14, 2016

What others are saying (1)

Portland Mercury Epileptic Boogaloo Speed Racer? More Like Seize Racer! Ha! by Erik Henriksen 05/08/2008

The Range

UPDATE: Please stop sending your sweet, sweet turkeys!

Casa Video Top 10

Laughing Stock: The People's Pervert Does Christmas

More »

Latest in Cinema Feature

  • No Wonder

    Justice League is a big step back for the DC movie universe
    • Nov 23, 2017
  • Reel Indie

    Movies at Tucson's indie theaters
    • Nov 23, 2017
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Life Without Louis

    It’s just as well that I Love You, Daddy won’t be playing at your neighborhood theater
    • Nov 16, 2017
  • More »

Facebook Activity

© 2017 Tucson Weekly | 7225 Mona Lisa Rd. Ste. 125, Tucson AZ 85741 | (520) 797-4384 | Powered by Foundation