Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Review - Speed Racer

After the disaster of Rex Racer's death, the Racer family had stayed away from the racing circuit. After 10 years, nothing could stop eighteen year old Speed Racer from beginning to race under his family name, and one day hope to avenge his brother's death. Drivng the Mach 5, designed and built by his father, Pops, Speed arrises to the fame and is sought out by Royalton Industries. Royalton Industries offer Speed a lucrative amount of money to race under their name, but when he refuses, they seek out to undermine Speed in his races and the family out of racing all together. With the aide of Racer X, Trixie, and the rest of the Racer family, Speed Racer seeks out to win the The Crucible and save his family name.

From the brothers Wachowski who gave us The Matrix and V for Vendetta, comes Speed Racer an eye-popping extravaganza of CG and action that is one hell of a thrill-ride! From start to finish, I really enjoyed Speed Racer. The action and CG were amazing! Absolutely jawdropping, I only wish I could have had a chance to see it on IMAX. The story is very polished and was not what I was expecting at all. Prior to seeing it, I felt that it might be too cheesy or too over the top, but my fears were not true. The film has amazing visuals and over the top stunts, but they work in a way that does not overload your senses. The film flows in a unique way that feels similar to a person who suffers from ADHD. What I mean is, it has alot of in your face action and visuals that come at you real fast and then suddenly the film slows down and gives more backstory or develops the plot. Similar to when you give a person who is suffering from ADHD, some caffine. Fast and in your face, and then slowed way down and with complete control. This may bother some viewers of the film, I however really liked it, and kept me intrigued all the way through.

Emile Hirsch was great as Speed Racer. He embodied the character to the fullest and seemed very reminiscent of the old cartoon character of the 1960's. Hirsch did most of his work in front of a green screen for this film which can be extremely hard to convey emotion. Imagine your staring at a tennis ball and the director tells you a metal blade is coming for your head, look scared, but dont lose concentration on the driving. It sounds easy, but rarely do we see a great performance, when the majority of the film is green screened. (Sky Captain comes to mind....pure dribble!) In Speed Racer that is not the case, all of the acting feels 100% real! There were times throughout the film I even forgot I was looking at CG.

The rest of the cast also delivers top-notch performances. John Goodman as Pop's was the spitting image of the old cartoon character. Christina Ricci, who is normally hit-or-miss with me, was very good as Trixie, Speed's longtime cute bubbly girlfriend and race enthusiast. Matthew Fox who plays Racer X, was very good as the dark and mysterious racer. I always loved Racer X in the old cartoons, and here in the film Fox was outstanding with his delivery and timing, giving the same vibe that Racer X had back in those old episodes. Mom played by Susan Sarandon was pretty standard, her character is the only character that felt undeveloped or just under used. Chim Chim even had some moments that really made me laugh. I know it is the lowest denominator of comedy and really was only there to keep children entertained but, he made me smile and laugh numerous times and brought back again, old memories of the famed cartoon series.

The racing scenes were fantastic! The amazing CG work throughout really helped to keep the film moving and keep the viewers eyes constantly shifting to see everything that was coming at you. Just sensastional eye-popping vsuals! The animation throughout the film, does come at you a mile-a-minute or even faster. That said, it didn't feel overwhelming, which I liked, and the scenes weren't too long. All of the races are fun, they have just enough danger to keep the viewer interested and don't drag on too long that you are bored with the visuals. I think this is where the ADHD angle worked for the tone of the film. Having so many visuals coming at you so fast kept the audiences entertained during the races, the races wouldn't last too long so that the first-rate visuals would never begin to overpower. Ultimately keeping every race fresh and exciting.

Speed Racer is a great family film that is fun for all ages. Even non-race enthusiasts and people who were not familiar with the cartoon series will like this film. The action, story, and races are all well developed and keep the viewer on the edge of their seat till it's astonishing climax. Everyone gives wonderful performances that add to the overall enjoyment of Speed Racer.

Ultimately, Speed Racer is a fast-paced, action packed story that really pays off in its delivery and imagery. Sadly, Speed Racer did poorly at the box office in a month that was overloaded with superstars like Ironman, Indiana Jones, and Chronicles of Narnia. Overall, Speed Racer will go down as a far too expensive CG film, that did not measure up to its hype. Here's hoping it makes it's money on dvd!