Speed Racer

Few movies have had as much commercial and popular success as the 1999 smash-hit, “The Matrix.” After winning four Oscars and becoming a modern sci-fi classic, “The Matrix” pushed directors Andy and Larry Wachowski into superstardom. However, after completing their surreal “Matrix” trilogy, the two brothers fell off the map for a while–until now. The Wachowski brothers are back with their highly anticipated family film, “Speed Racer.” Adapted from the 1967 Japanese anime cartoon, “Speed Racer” stars Emile Hirsch as Speed. Speed has always been obsessed with one thing and one thing only: automobile racing. Despite being discouraged by the untimely death of his big brother and corruption in the world-racing league, Speed has pursued and achieved international fame through his amazing driving skills. Speed’s ambitions are put on hold, however, when the owner of Royalton Industries (Roger Allam), approaches him. The giant conglomerate wants to sponsor Speed, but on one condition; Speed must agree to fix races. After respectfully declining the offer, his family is discredited and threatened by Mr. Royalton. Speed, along with the help of his girlfriend, Trixie (Christina Ricci), and the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox) must win the Grand Prix to regain his honor and respect. With the intention of preserving the spirit of the original TV show, the Wachowski brothers filled “Speed Racer” with bright, anime-like visuals. Shot almost entirely on a green screen, the visuals are probably the most unique thing about the film. Speed races through neon environments while lights and visuals flash quickly on screen, giving it a very cartoony feel. Some of the time, the visuals are beautiful, despite being completely unrealistic. Most of the time, however, the lollypop colors blend together, turning the CGI into rainbow vomit. No matter how hard you try to enjoy the innovative art direction, some wonky editing and constantly flashing lights just ends up giving you a headache. Taking a back seat to the visuals, but important nonetheless, is the script. The first “Speed Racer” television series isn’t famous for having engaging plot lines; the show was just an excuse to show 30 minutes of crazy racing every Saturday morning. So, it’s no surprise that the plot is fairly weak. The script uses racing jargon, cheesy one-liners and fortune cookie morals to make up for its lack of a compelling storyline. A plot should never be compromised for a few cheap jokes. Had the Wachowski brothers spent more time writing a better script, “Speed Racer” wouldn’t seem so pointless. While making this movie, the brothers were going for a very specific style. They knew they weren’t making a cinematic masterpiece; rather, they were trying to appeal to a younger audience. However, this leads to a large portion of the movie feeling dumbed down. Alongside the corny script, the Wachowski brothers directed the actors to be over-the-top. While this overly dramatic style of acting might appeal to 10-year-old boys, it simply annoys most. It’s a shame that such a talented cast had to act so cartoony, just for a few jokes. But, even though there is a lot to dislike about “Speed Racer,” you do have to take it for what it is worth. “Speed Racer” promises amazing, larger-than-life races, and the brothers deliver. Sure, the acting, script and visuals might be overkill, but the zany competitions are simply fun to watch and keep this movie from being a complete disaster. I’d rather watch amazingly close races than bad dialogue coupled with worse acting. Overall, “Speed Racer” is a disappointment. I expected more from the talented Wachowski brothers. But, young kids will enjoy the bizarre action and some of the lollypop CGI. It’s a brief, unfocused film, but it at least entertains for a little while. Grade: 3-