May 9, 2008 Speed Racer
Studio: Warner Bros. Rating: PG for sequences of action, some violence and language.
A 1960's cartoon revs up and roars into theaters. But "Speed Racer" is hardly a go-go-go!
In this film by directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski, Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) puts on the white helmet and slides into the cockpit of the legendary Mach 5. Born into a family with racing in its blood, Speed idolizes his older brother Rex. But Rex dies while competing in the ultra-competitive rally, "The Crucible." When Speed is asked to help uncover corruption and clean up the sport, he takes his shot at the race which claimed his brother's life.
Through teamwork with the mysterious masked Racer X (Matthew Fox), Speed survives "The Crucible." That earns him an invitation into the world's most prestigious race, the Grand Prix. There, Speed battles racing's rulers and a track loaded with danger to win the day and take the checkered flag.
About the best way I can describe "Speed Racer" is to call it a magnificent disaster. I give it a little leeway because obviously this movie is geared for children. But even a kids' film has a responsibility to make sense. It's a pretty basic plot about corruption in racing and Speed saving the day. But the manner in which its told is a whole lot more complicated.
Visually, this movie is stunning. The Wachowski brothers, who made their mark with "The Matrix," create an entirely different type of world here. It's a cotton candy colored environment where the laws of gravity don't seem to apply.
But even with its amazing palette and ultra-fast editing, all of the action is ultimately a disappointment. That's because the races all basically look the same. There's very little in each event to distinguish it from the next. Although the environments chance, what happens on the track...or in the mountains...or in the desert, really doesn't.
Overly long at two-plus hours, the acting is very wooden. Fox delivers each and every line exactly the same. Pops Racer (John Goodman), Mom Racer (Susan Sarandon) and Trixie (Christina Ricci) are all cardboard cutouts instead of real characters. And don't get me started on what is possibly the most annoying little brother character in movie history. Even the monkey Chim Chim comes off better than Spritle Racer (Paulie Litt).
If you're a fan of cutting edge graphics and animation or if you love the original cartoon you may find something of value here.
But even kids will be rolling their eyes as "Speed Racer" limps across the finish line.
On my rating scale, "Speed Racer" Strikes Out!
HELL'S KITCHEN Tonight at 8:00 PM 5 Chefs Compete, Part 1 of 3
The chefs are surprised by family members and then participate in a pressure cooker test